The Practitioner

The Practitioner contributes to the formal clinical literature and is primarily aimed at GPs, with subscribers throughout the world. All articles in The Practitioner online include CPD frameworks for personal reflection on learning and drafting of plans that will have an impact on practice. Preset search links to PubMed and NICE Evidence are associated with most major articles.


Symposium articles

GPs have a key role in the management of miscarriage

22 Mar 2021Registered users

First trimester miscarriage affects up to one in four pregnancies. While some women will experience bleeding and pain, others have no symptoms and are given the diagnosis at their 12-13 week booking scan. In 50-85% of cases the cause is due to a spontaneous chromosomal abnormality, most commonly trisomy. Many women suffer from psychological sequelae including PTSD, anxiety and depression. GPs should offer a follow-up appointment to all women who have had a miscarriage to: discuss any questions the woman has regarding her miscarriage; assess the woman’s psychological wellbeing and offer counselling if appropriate.

Optimising the assessment and management of osteoporosis

22 Mar 2021Registered users

Osteoporosis affects around 40% of women and 13% of men at some point in their lives. While almost any bone can fracture as the result of osteoporosis, the most common sites are the wrist, spine, hip and humerus. The presence of one or more clinical risk factors in individuals aged 50 and over is an indication for a fracture risk assessment. There is a strong evidence base for drug treatment in DXA proven osteoporosis and those with low trauma vertebral fractures.

Reducing cardiovascular risk pivotal in diabetic kidney disease

21 Feb 2021Registered users

Diabetic kidney disease is associated with a very high risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and premature mortality from cardiovascular events. There is good evidence that multifactorial interventions that optimise BP, limit proteinuria and minimise cardiovascular risk can reduce morbidity and premature mortality. Early diabetic kidney disease is asymptomatic. Microalbuminuria, defined as a urinary ACR of 3-30 mg/mmol on two occasions three months apart is the earliest clinically detectable indicator of diabetic kidney disease. Excellent glycaemic control can delay onset of microalbuminuria.

Tight blood pressure control key in polycystic kidney disease

21 Feb 2021Registered users

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) has an autosomal dominant mode of inheritance. Despite this 25% of patients will have no known family history and these cases are thought to be due to de novo mutations in the causative genes. PKD can present asymptomatically and should be considered in any patient with renal cysts noted on abdominal imaging, especially if there is a history of hypertension. Patients with PKD may present with hypertension before a decline in eGFR is noted. Cyst haemorrhage, rupture or infection can all present with acute loin pain. PKD can also cause a number of extrarenal complications.

Diagnosis and management of age-related macular degeneration

25 Jan 2021Paid-up subscribers

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a cause of painless, gradual loss of vision. Epidemiological evidence suggests 4-8% of people aged over 65 years in the UK have visually significant AMD. Patients with suspected neovascular AMD (NvAMD) should be seen by ophthalmology within two weeks, and if the diagnosis and progressive disease are confirmed, treatment should commence within the same timeframe. Intravitreal anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) agents cause regression of neovascularisation and reduce macular oedema. There is no treatment for dry AMD.


Special reports

Improving the detection and treatment of hepatitis C

22 Mar 2021Registered users

Many patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection remain unaware of their diagnosis until they present with decompensated chronic liver disease or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Prolonged infection with HCV predicts increased risk of progression to cirrhosis and increased HCC risk. Consequently, all patients with a positive HCV RNA test should be considered for referral to specialist hepatology or infectious diseases services for prompt treatment and attempted cure.

Holistic approach needed to tackle chronic primary pain

21 Feb 2021Paid-up subscribers

The International Association for the Study of Pain has developed a new classification system for chronic pain. A fundamental distinction is made between chronic primary pain and chronic secondary pain. Chronic primary pain is defined as pain in one or more anatomical regions that persists for longer than three months, is associated with disability or emotional distress, not better accounted for by another diagnosis of chronic pain. Chronic primary pain is subdivided into five categories. Chronic secondary pain is pain secondary to an underlying disease.

Aetiology key to the management of bronchiectasis

25 Jan 2021Registered users

Bronchiectasis increases in incidence and prevalence with age affecting > 1% of people aged 70 and older. It is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Bronchiectasis can be congenital or acquired following a lung-damaging event such as severe infection, or have an immunological aetiology, but the cause is not always found. It can be associated with inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other connective tissue diseases. Most patients with bronchiectasis present with persistent cough and daily sputum production. Bronchiectasis is diagnosed using high resolution CT.

Psoriatic arthritis often goes unrecognised

21 Dec 2020Registered users

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a seronegative systemic disease that belongs to the family of spondyloarthropathies. Its worldwide prevalence ranges from 0.05% to 1%, and it appears in 10-40% of patients with skin psoriasis; however, it is believed to be underdiagnosed. More than 80% of patients who are diagnosed with PsA already have skin disease, mainly in the form of plaque psoriasis. However, 15% of patients present with musculoskeletal involvement prior to psoriasis which makes the diagnosis of PsA challenging. It is important to do a thorough clinical assessment, take a family history and actively look for evidence of psoriasis: this includes examining nails, the scalp, intergluteal region and umbilicus.

Early symptom recognition key in management of TIA and stroke

24 Nov 2020Registered users

In the UK, at least 100,000 people have an acute stroke each year. A first ever transient ischaemic attack (TIA) affects around 50 people per 100,000 per year and around 15% of people who have a first stroke have had a preceding TIA. Patients with a suspected TIA should be referred immediately for specialist assessment and investigation, to be seen within 24 hours of onset of symptoms. Patients with a suspected stroke should be admitted immediately to hospital, ideally to an acute stroke unit. Patients with a suspected TIA who have a bleeding disorder or are taking an anticoagulant should also be admitted to an acute stroke unit as haemorrhage must be excluded.

Prompt diagnosis can improve outcomes in multiple sclerosis

27 Oct 2020Registered users

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the leading cause of non-traumatic neurological disability in young adults. Between 1990 and 2016, the UK prevalence increased by 28%, due to earlier diagnosis and increased survival. The female to male ratio is 2:1, and patients have a minimally reduced life expectancy. Diagnostic criteria require that clinical, radiological and laboratory signs of MS are disseminated in both time and space. Diagnosis is based on a combination of features (relapses and clinical progression), MRI findings, and CSF analysis.


Women's health

Tailor treatment to the patient in polycystic ovary syndrome

24 Mar 2020Registered users

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition characterised by hyperandrogenism, multifollicular ovaries and ovulatory dysfunction. It affects 8-13% of women of reproductive age and is associated with insulin resistance, hyperlipidaemia and obesity. Baseline measurements should include blood pressure and BMI. Clinical signs of hyperandrogenism including hirsutism, acne and androgenic alopecia should be assessed. A hormone profile should be done during days 1-5 of the menstrual cycle or as a random sample when there is amenorrhoea.

Investigating the cause of heavy menstrual bleeding

25 Mar 2019Registered users

Heavy menstrual bleeding has been defined as ‘excessive menstrual blood loss which interferes with a woman’s physical, social, emotional, and/or material quality of life’. Heavy menstrual bleeding affects 25% of women of reproductive age and is estimated to be the fourth most common reason for gynaecological referrals. Women should be asked about pelvic pain which might suggest endometriosis and pressure symptoms which might suggest significant fibroids. Examination is appropriate if there is intermenstrual or postcoital bleeding and, if the woman is actively bleeding, may identify the source of the bleeding.

Symptom recognition key to diagnosing endometriosis

22 Mar 2018Registered users

Endometriosis affects around one in ten women of reproductive age in the UK. NICE guidance highlights the importance of symptoms in its diagnosis. A normal abdominal or pelvic examination, ultrasound, or MRI should not exclude the diagnosis. Endometriosis should be suspected in women and adolescents who present with one or more of: chronic pelvic pain, significant dysmenorrhoea, deep dyspareunia, period-related or cyclical GI or urinary symptoms, or infertility. If endometriosis is suspected or symptoms persist, patients should be referred for further assessment.



Prompt treatment of impetigo reduces risk of spread

22 Jun 2020Paid-up subscribers

Impetigo is a common contagious bacterial infection of the skin. The causative organisms are either Staphylococcus aureus or, less commonly, Streptococcus pyogenes. The infection can occur at any age, but it is particularly common in children, especially the pre-school and early school age years, and tends to be more frequent during the summer months. It may arise on previously normal skin or complicate a pre-existing dermatosis. The diagnosis is essentially a clinical one, but if in doubt a swab should be taken for bacteriological culture.

Improving the detection and management of peanut allergy

25 May 2020Registered users

Peanut allergy currently affects around 2% of the population. It is the most common cause of fatal food related anaphylaxis. Most patients (80%) will have long-lived peanut allergy. Primary peanut allergy most commonly presents in the first 5 years of life after the first known exposure to peanut. Clinical features are those of an IgE-mediated reaction. All patients with a history suggestive of peanut allergy should be referred to an allergy clinic for comprehensive assessment and management.

Managing common skin conditions in infants

24 Jun 2019Paid-up subscribers

Atopic eczema, or atopic dermatitis, affects up to 20% of children and often presents in infancy. Cow’s milk allergy can also manifest as eczema and gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. Food allergy should be suspected if there is a clear history of a reaction to a food in infants with moderate to severe eczema not responding to standard treatment, in infants with very early onset eczema (under 3 months) and those with GI symptoms. Seborrhoeic dermatitis is often an early manifestation of atopic eczema. Naevus simplex is a common congenital capillary malformation occurring in up to 40% of newborns. Port wine stains are less common, affecting about 0.3% of infants. 



Early recognition key in child and adolescent anxiety disorders

23 Apr 2020Registered users

Anxiety disorders are common, highly treatable conditions, with a strong evidence base for cognitive behaviour therapy. In a recent population sample of the under 12s, only 65% of those who met criteria for a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder had sought professional help and only 3.4% had received an evidence-based treatment. Assessment should include an exploration of neurodevelopmental conditions, drug and alcohol misuse, and speech and language problems.

Treating psychological trauma in the real world

23 Jan 2020

After a potentially traumatic event (PTE), many individuals experience either no distress or only transient distress, while others suffer considerable morbidity and may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Around one-third of people experiencing a PTE will develop PTSD, though this varies depending on the type of traumatic event and rates of PTSD are higher with type 2 trauma. Type 2 trauma involves repeated traumatic experiences over extended periods. Although PTSD symptoms can be present acutely, the diagnosis requires the persistence of symptoms for at least one month and the symptoms should cause functional impairment.

Early intervention key in first episode psychosis

20 Dec 2019

Psychosis is a state of mind in which a person loses contact with reality in at least one important respect while not intoxicated with, or withdrawing from, alcohol or drugs, and while not affected by an acute physical illness that better accounts for the symptoms. Common positive symptoms of psychosis include delusions and hallucinations. These symptoms are strongly influenced by the underlying cause of the psychosis: delusions in schizophrenia tend to be bizarre; delusions in depression negative; delusions in mania expansive. When a patient presents with psychotic symptoms, it is important to take a full psychiatric history, perform a mental state examination and complete relevant investigations, as indicated in each individual case.



What is the role of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale?

22 Mar 2021Registered users

The optimal cut-off score of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is 11, a systematic review and meta-analysis has found. However 7-8 women out of 10 with a positive screen will not have major depression.

Loneliness a potential risk factor for depression

21 Feb 2021Registered users

Loneliness is associated with an increased risk of developing depression, a longitudinal cohort study has found. The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) recruited 11,391 participants aged 50 years and over who were living in a private household in 2002. Participants were followed up every two years until 2016/17.

Do statins raise the risk of depression?

25 Jan 2021Registered users

Statin use is associated with a reduced risk of depression and does not increase the risk of suicide, anxiety or seizures, a Swedish national cohort study has found.


HASLAM's view

Facing up to difficult situations

22 Mar 2021Registered users

Zoom can be extraordinarily time saving, cutting out all that travel involved in getting to meetings, and giving a genuine and important environmental benefit, but it cannot replace the less tangible aspects of human interaction.

The masked patient presents a new challenge for GPs

21 Feb 2021Registered users

I think back on so many of the consultations I had as a doctor where I needed to break bad news or listen to a complex and distressing history. To have these exchanges with patients when both sides are masked and physically distanced makes being a doctor even more challenging than normal.


Research reviews - by GPs with a special interest

Sex differences remain in the prevalence and treatment of CVD risk factors

22 Mar 2021Registered users

Differences persist in the prevalence, treatment and control of risk factors for cardiovascular disease between men and women, an analysis of data from the Health Survey for England 2012-2017 has found. Men were more likely to have one or more risk factors than women. However, figures for both treatment and control of dyslipidaemia were significantly lower in women than men.

Food anaphylaxis admissions rise but case fatality rates fall

22 Mar 2021Registered users

Although hospital admissions for food anaphylaxis increased over the past 20 years in the UK the case fatality rate more than halved, an analysis of national data has shown.

Are prescription opioids safe to use in pregnancy?

22 Mar 2021Registered users

Prescription opioids used in early pregnancy are not associated with a substantial increase in the risk of most congenital malformations, although a small increase in the risk of oral clefts associated with their use is possible, a large US study has found.

Which drugs should be used first line for hypertension?

21 Feb 2021Registered users

Tailoring choice of antihypertensives to the patient rather than using strict age criteria might be more beneficial, the authors of a UK observational cohort study suggest.


A hundred and fifty years ago

150 years ago: Eye sequelae of small-pox

22 Mar 2021Registered users

Her brother, a seaman, had small-pox when he was four years of age; he had not been vaccinated. A brother-in-law had small-pox three months ago – i.e. at the same time as Rosina T. and died of it. He was said to have been ‘stone-blind’ three days before he died. .... The case illustrates well the protracted  nature of keratitis following small-pox; and the family history is extremely interesting as a proof of the danger of neglecting vaccination and of the protective qualities of the operation, should any further proof be wanting of so well-established a fact in therapeutics.


A hundred years ago

100 years ago: Medical aspects of flat-foot

22 Mar 2021Registered users

A middle-aged stockbroker had been told by a ‘specialist’ that the pains in the feet of which he complained were caused by chronic gout. He was put on a strict diet, but, being fond of the pleasures of the table, did not take kindly to the treatment, especially as he found that it did him no good. One day, however, when ordering a pair of new boots, he complained bitterly to his bootmaker of the pains, and of the disagreeable treatment he was undergoing for them. The bootmaker promised to cure him by introducing instep supports, which he did with complete success. The patient’s sarcasms on ‘gout specialists’ afterwards were amusing but, to a doctor, humiliating hearing.


Cancer - Temporary direct access

Diagnosis and management of malignant pleural mesothelioma

21 Dec 2020

Mesothelioma accounts for less than 1% of all cancers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are almost 2,500 new diagnoses a year, of which 96% are pleural. The median age at diagnosis for malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is 76 years. The majority of cases occur in men, most commonly following occupational exposure to asbestos. There is a latent period, usually 30-40 years, between exposure and disease development. A chest X-ray is usually the first-line investigation; 94% of patients with MPM have a unilateral pleural effusion, although the chest X-ray may be normal or show another asbestos-related lung disease. 

Optimising the management of early prostate cancer

23 Apr 2020

Men born after 1960 in the UK now have a 1 in 6 estimated lifetime risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. NICE recommends that men over 50 years old who request a PSA test should be fully counselled about the test beforehand. The test should also be offered to men with LUTS or an abnormal DRE. If the prostate feels malignant on DRE this should trigger a fast track referral to secondary care, via a suspected cancer pathway referral, even if the PSA is normal. Men with PSA values above the age-specific reference range should also be referred to urology urgently, via a suspected cancer pathway referral.