Research Article

Decision making by general practitioners in diagnosis and management of lower urinary tract symptoms in women.

BMJ 1993; 306 doi: (Published 24 April 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;306:1103
  1. I Nazareth,
  2. M King
  1. Department of Primary Health Care, University College London Medical School, Whittington Hospital.


    OBJECTIVE--To identify factors influencing decision making by general practitioners in the diagnosis and treatment of lower urinary tract symptoms in women. SETTING--Two suburban London general practices. SUBJECTS--Women presenting to their family doctor with lower urinary tract symptoms. DESIGN--After each consultation the doctor completed a questionnaire on presenting symptoms; clinical examination; investigations undertaken; presence of psychological, social, and menstrual problems; patients' requests for antibiotics; antibiotic prescribing; knowledge of the patient; attitude towards the consultation; and any other factors assisting in diagnosis and management. Finally, doctors predicted the presence or absence of clinically important bacteriuria. Each woman completed a demographic questionnaire, the 12 item general health questionnaire, and the modified menstrual distress questionnaire, after which each provided a clean catch midstream urine sample. Case notes were examined for information on previous reports of results of urine analysis. RESULTS--When the general practitioners did not know the patients well they were 4.5 times more likely to assume that there was a clinically important infection. When they knew the patient well, they were four times more likely to make a correct prediction of the test result and 12 times less likely to prescribe antibiotics. Doctors were five times more likely to predict the test result correctly in patients from social classes 1 and 2 and were six times more likely to prescribe antibiotics for the older women in the sample. CONCLUSIONS--In women presenting with urinary tract symptoms, these family practitioners seemed to take no particular regard of physical, psychological, or menstrual factors in making their assessments. They were most accurate in their prediction of the result of urine analysis and least likely to prescribe antibiotics when they had a good general knowledge of the patient. Which came first, the diagnosis or prescribing, is difficult to say and probably differed in individual cases. Doctors tended to be more conservative in their management of older women and those whom they knew less well.