Decision Support Techniques

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Managing Messages - Feature

Dermoscopy for the Family Physician - Article

ABSTRACT: Noninvasive in vivo imaging techniques have become an important diagnostic aid for skin cancer detection. Dermoscopy, also known as dermatoscopy, epiluminescence microscopy, incident light microscopy, or skin surface microscopy, has been shown to increase the clinician’s diagnostic accuracy when evaluating cutaneous neoplasms. A handheld instrument called a dermatoscope or dermoscope, which has a transilluminating light source and standard magnifying optics, is used to perform dermoscopy. The dermatoscope facilitates the visualization of subsurface skin structures that are not visible to the unaided eye. The main purpose for using dermoscopy is to help correctly identify lesions that have a high likelihood of being malignant (i.e., melanoma or basal cell carcinoma) and to assist in differentiating them from benign lesions clinically mimicking these cancers. Colors and structures visible with dermoscopy are required for generating a correct diagnosis. Routinely using dermoscopy and recognizing the presence of atypical pigment network, blue-white color, and dermoscopic asymmetry will likely improve the observer’s sensitivity for detecting pigmented basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. A two-step algorithm based on a seven-level criterion ladder is the foundation for dermoscopic evaluation of skin lesions. The first step of the algorithm is intended to help physicians differentiate melanocytic lesions from the following nonmelanocytic lesions: dermatofibroma, basal cell carcinoma, seborrheic keratosis, and hemangioma. The second step is intended to help physicians differentiate nevi from melanoma using one of several scoring systems. From a management perspective, the two-step algorithm is intended to guide the decision-making process on whether to perform a biopsy, or to refer or reassure the patient.

Onychomycosis: Current Trends in Diagnosis and Treatment - Article

ABSTRACT: Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the nails that causes discoloration, thickening, and separation from the nail bed. Onychomycosis occurs in 10% of the general population, 20% of persons older than 60 years, and 50% of those older than 70 years. It is caused by a variety of organisms, but most cases are caused by dermatophytes. Accurate diagnosis involves physical and microscopic examination and culture. Histologic evaluation using periodic acid–Schiff staining increases sensitivity for detecting infection. Treatment is aimed at eradication of the causative organism and return to a normal appearance of the nail. Systemic antifungals are the most effective treatment, with meta-analyses showing mycotic cure rates of 76% for terbinafine, 63% for itraconazole with pulse dosing, 59% for itraconazole with continuous dosing, and 48% for fluconazole. Concomitant nail debridement further increases cure rates. Topical therapy with ciclopirox is less effective; it has a failure rate exceeding 60%. Several nonprescription treatments have also been evaluated. Laser and photodynamic therapies show promise based on in-vitro evaluation, but more clinical studies are needed. Despite treatment, the recurrence rate of onychomycosis is 10% to 50% as a result of reinfection or lack of mycotic cure.

Recognition and Evaluation of Nontraumatic Subarachnoid Hemorrhage and Ruptured Cerebral Aneurysm - Article

ABSTRACT: Swift diagnosis and treatment are critical for good outcomes in patients with nontraumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is usually caused by a ruptured aneurysm. This type of stroke often results in death or disability. Rates of misdiagnosis and treatment delays for subarachnoid hemorrhage have improved over the years, but these are still common occurrences. Subarachnoid hemorrhage can be more easily diagnosed in patients who present with severe symptoms, unconsciousness, or with thunderclap headache, which is often accompanied by vomiting. The diagnosis is more elusive in patients who present in good condition, yet these patients have the best chance for good outcome if they are correctly diagnosed at the time of presentation. Physicians should be alert for warning headaches, which are often severe, and headaches that feel different to the patient. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, impaired consciousness, nuchal rigidity, orbital pain, focal neurologic deficits, dysphasia, lightheadedness, and dizziness. The most important risk factors for subarachnoid hemorrhage include cigarette smoking, hypertension, heavy alcohol use, and personal or family history of aneurysm or hemorrhagic stroke. The first step in the diagnostic workup is noncontrast computed tomography of the head. If computed tomography is negative or equivocal, a lumbar puncture should be performed. Subsequent imaging may include computed tomographic angiography, catheter angiography, and magnetic resonance angiography.

Outpatient Diagnosis of Acute Chest Pain in Adults - Article

ABSTRACT: Approximately 1 percent of primary care office visits are for chest pain, and 1.5 percent of these patients will have unstable angina or acute myocardial infarction. The initial goal in patients presenting with chest pain is to determine if the patient needs to be referred for further testing to rule in or out acute coronary syndrome and myocardial infarction. The physician should consider patient characteristics and risk factors to help determine initial risk. Twelve-lead electrocardiography is typically the test of choice when looking for ST segment changes, new-onset left bundle branch block, presence of Q waves, and new-onset T wave inversions. For persons in whom the suspicion for ischemia is lower, other diagnoses to consider include chest wall pain/costochondritis (localized pain reproducible by palpation), gastroesophageal reflux disease (burning retrosternal pain, acid regurgitation, and a sour or bitter taste in the mouth), and panic disorder/anxiety state. Other less common but important diagnostic considerations include pneumonia (fever, egophony, and dullness to percussion), heart failure, pulmonary embolism (consider using the Wells criteria), acute pericarditis, and acute thoracic aortic dissection (acute chest or back pain with a pulse differential in the upper extremities). Persons with a higher likelihood of acute coronary syndrome should be referred to the emergency department or hospital.

Appropriate Use of Polypharmacy for Older Patients - Cochrane for Clinicians

Assessment of Asymptomatic Microscopic Hematuria in Adults - Article

ABSTRACT: Although routine screening for bladder cancer is not recommended, microscopic hematuria is often incidentally discovered by primary care physicians. The American Urological Association has published an updated guideline for the management of asymptomatic microscopic hematuria, which is defined as the presence of three or more red blood cells per high-power field visible in a properly collected urine specimen without evidence of infection. The most common causes of microscopic hematuria are urinary tract infection, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and urinary calculi. However, up to 5% of patients with asymptomatic microscopic hematuria are found to have a urinary tract malignancy. The risk of urologic malignancy is increased in men, persons older than 35 years, and persons with a history of smoking. Microscopic hematuria in the setting of urinary tract infection should resolve after appropriate antibiotic treatment; persistence of hematuria warrants a diagnostic workup. Dysmorphic red blood cells, cellular casts, proteinuria, elevated creatinine levels, or hypertension in the presence of microscopic hematuria should prompt concurrent nephrologic and urologic referral. The upper urinary tract is best evaluated with multiphasic computed tomography urography, which identifies hydronephrosis, urinary calculi, and renal and ureteral lesions. The lower urinary tract is best evaluated with cystoscopy for urethral stricture disease, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and bladder masses. Voided urine cytology is no longer recommended as part of the routine evaluation of asymptomatic microscopic hematuria, unless there are risk factors for malignancy. (Am Fam Physician. 2013;88(11):747-754.

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