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Reassuring patients about normal test results

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 15 February 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:325
  1. Donald B Penzien (,
  2. Jeanetta C Rains, director2
  1. 1University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS 39216, USA
  2. 2Center for Sleep Evaluation, Elliot Hospital, Manchester, NH 03103, USA

    Face to face communication strategies are effective

    Every practising doctor recognises that normal test results can fail to reassure patients. One possible cause is that suboptimal reassurance strategies leave some patients distressed about their symptoms.1 Uncertainty about the meaning or accuracy of normal test results may contribute to making symptoms worse and lead to additional costly and unnecessary medical visits and diagnostic procedures. Despite this, the medical literature provides little guidance about how to discuss normal findings with patients.

    The study by Petrie and colleagues in this week's BMJ is one of the few to examine ways of providing reassurance about normal test results.2 The findings of this randomised controlled trial show that patients with chest pain who received an intervention comprising an information pamphlet plus a brief pretest discussion with a health psychologist about …

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