Prognostic factors and clinical outcome in acute lower respiratory tract infections: a prospective study in general practice
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BACKGROUND: Unrealistic expectations about illness duration are likely to result in reconsultations and associated unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions. An evidence-based account of clinical outcomes in patients with lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) may help avoid unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions and reconsultations. OBJECTIVES: We aimed to identify clinical factors that may predict a prolonged clinical course or poor outcome for patients with LRTI and to provide an evidence-based account of duration of an LRTI and the impact of the illness on daily activities in patients consulting in general practice. METHODS: A prospective cohort study of 247 adult patients with a clinical diagnosis of LRTI presenting to 25 GPs in The Netherlands was carried out. Multivariable Cox regression analysis was used to identify baseline clinical and infection parameters that predicted the time taken for symptoms to resolve. A Kaplan-Meier curve was used to analyse time-to-symptom resolution. Clinical cure was recorded by the GPs at 28 days after the initial consultation and by the patients at 27 days. RESULTS: Co-morbidity of asthma was a statistically significant predictor of delayed symptom resolution, whereas the presence of fever, perspiring and the prescription of an antibiotic weakly predicted enhanced symptom resolution. The GPs considered 89% of the patients clinically cured at 28 days, but 43% of these nevertheless reported ongoing symptoms. Patient-reported cure was much lower (51%), and usual daily activities were limited in 73% of the patients at baseline, and 19% at final follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: The course of LRTI was generally uncomplicated, but the morbidity of this illness was considerable with a longer duration than generally reported, especially for patients with co-existent asthma. These results underline once again the importance of providing GPs with an evidence-based account of outcomes to share with patients in order to set realistic expectations and of enhancing their communication skills within the consultation.
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