Perceptions of Canadian Primary Care Physicians Towards Cardiovascular Risk Assessment and Lipid Management
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BACKGROUND: Cardiovascular (CV) risk stratification remains the cornerstone of preventive cardiology. This study was performed to gain insight into how Canadian primary care physicians (PCPs) incorporate traditional and emerging risk factors in determining risk. METHODS: Using a tested questionnaire, this cross-sectional survey evaluated the perceptions of 846 PCPs (38% response rate) on CV risk assessment, treatment thresholds, and novel biomarkers of vascular risk. RESULTS: Most physicians (74%) perform CV risk assessment in eligible patients annually with 69% using the Framingham Risk Score (FRS). Although 89% of the physicians knew that FRS estimates 10-year risk of coronary heart disease death and myocardial infarction, 30% could not characterize FRS thresholds for high risk. Only 44% correctly used a positive family history to double the FRS. Waist circumference was considered by 79% of the physicians as a vital sign but only 6% reported measuring this routinely. Carotid ultrasound was identified by 55% as the preferred imaging technique for screening in primary prevention. Although 99% had heard of high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), only 49% measured it for the purposes of assessing CV risk and 27% were unsure under what clinical scenarios the test is indicated. CONCLUSIONS: Our survey suggests that FRS is employed by approximately 2/3 of Canadian PCPs for risk stratification. Family history and central obesity are considered important additional CV risk markers. There are substantial knowledge gaps on the appropriate use of family history and hs-CRP in risk stratification, particularly in patients who may not present with hyperlipidemia.
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