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Physicians Show Bias When Diagnosing Stomach Problems: Study

by Sheela Philomena on  November 1, 2011 at 1:30 PM General Health News   - G J E 4
Bias plays a role in the diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and increases the likelihood of GERD diagnosis, reveals study.
 Physicians Show Bias When Diagnosing Stomach Problems: Study
Physicians Show Bias When Diagnosing Stomach Problems: Study
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This led a team of researchers at Mayo Clinic, others from the United States, Europe and Australia to question if "observer bias" plays a role in the diagnosis of GERD, compared to a diagnosis of functional dyspepsia. This theory is supported by the following findings from the study:

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  • In the last 20 years, the number of GERD diagnoses has increased despite a simultaneous decrease in GERD symptoms.
  • In the presence of both functional dyspepsia and GERD symptoms, GERD is diagnosed most commonly.
  • GERD is the most likely diagnosis in the presence of functional dyspepsia symptoms only.


"These findings serve as a reminder to all physicians to keep an open mind when patients complain of upper GI pain," says senior author G. Richard Locke, M.D., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist. "It is worth considering every possible cause of the symptoms, including the sometimes challenging-to-treat functional dyspepsia. Plus, if we believe the patient's symptoms are caused by GERD, we must confirm that diagnosis."

The study also found that:

  • Between 1985 and 2009, diagnosis rates of GERD rose from 325 per 100,000 patients to 1,866.
  • Symptom reporting for GERD actually decreased from 12 percent during the period from 1988 to 1994, to 7.6 percent in 2008-2009.
  • Overall functional dyspepsia diagnosis rates rose from 45 in 1985 to 964 in 1999, yet decreased to 452 between 1999 and 2009.
  • Functional dyspepsia symptom reporting was stable at around 5 percent throughout the various survey periods.
  • The chance of receiving a GERD diagnosis when reporting GERD symptoms was 63 percent, while the chance of receiving an functional dyspepsia diagnosis when reporting functional dyspepsia symptoms was 12.5 percent.
  • Forty-five percent of subjects reporting both GERD and functional dyspepsia symptoms were diagnosed with GERD only.
  • Fifty percent of subjects reporting functional dyspepsia symptoms only were diagnosed with both GERD and functional dyspepsia.


Source: Eurekalert
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