Symposium: Respiratory medicine

Assessment and management of active and latent TB

24 Nov 2016Paid-up subscribers

Clinically significant disease occurs through progression of primary infection or through later reactivation of latent TB infection (LTBI); this is most likely to occur in the first few years following infection, although late reactivation can occur several decades later, particularly in individuals who become immunosuppressed. Risk of TB acquisition is increased in people who have come to the UK from high incidence countries or who are born in the UK but come from high-risk ethnic minority groups. Other risk groups include those who are homeless, in prison or who misuse drugs or alcohol.

GPs have key role in improving outcomes in acute asthma

24 Nov 2016Paid-up subscribers

Features which indicate a high risk of severe attacks include: previous admission to intensive care, particularly if requiring mechanical ventilation; previous admission with asthma especially in the past year or repeated emergency admissions; history of worsening asthma in January or February; use of three or more classes of asthma medication; heavy use of beta-2 agonists; anxiety traits; and marital stress. 

Improving the diagnosis and management of COPD

25 Nov 2015Registered users

COPD is a progressive condition. Therefore, earlier diagnosis allows earlier intervention in particular smoking cessation. Spirometry should be performed in symptomatic current or former smokers (typically = 10 pack years) who are aged at least 35 where COPD is a likely differential diagnosis.

This article online comes with updates and links to recent research and guidance, most notably the GOLD 2017 guide to COPD.

Optimising the management of patients with difficult asthma

25 Nov 2015Registered users

Between 5 and 10% of asthma (depending on the definition used) is categorised as difficult asthma, a term which generally refers to patients who continue to experience symptoms and frequent exacerbations despite the prescription of high-dose asthma therapy. Difficult asthma is an indication for specialist review by an appropriate respiratory physician, but close liaison between primary, secondary and tertiary care is critical.

Improving the management of asthma in adults in primary care

24 Nov 2014Registered users

Studies in adult patients have suggested that 30% of those diagnosed with asthma do not have the condition and it is likely that the diagnosis is missed in many others. The BTS/SIGN guideline advocates spirometry after taking the history. If airflow obstruction is present, a trial of treatment can commence, but a firm diagnosis also requires a symptomatic response and an improvement in the measured airflow obstruction. The FeNO level correlates well with airway inflammation, and is therefore a good indicator of asthma and in particular of the likely response to inhaled corticosteroids. The test is especially useful for patients with suggestive symptoms but normal spirometry.

Early diagnosis pivotal to survival in lung cancer

24 Nov 2014Registered users

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death, both in the UK and worldwide. There has been little change in survival over the past 20 years, with increasing evidence that there are disparities in outcomes between the UK and other comparable healthcare systems. It has been postulated that this is due to an excess of early deaths, delays in diagnosis are thought to contribute to this problem. A recent study showed that 30% of patients with lung cancer die within the first 90 days and they have seen their GP on average five times in the four months before diagnosis, suggesting there may be opportunities to diagnose these patients earlier in the disease process. The challenge GPs face is to identify and refer those at risk as early as possible and to maintain a high index of suspicion if symptoms persist.  [With external links to current evidence base]

Diagnosing and managing pulmonary hypertension

12 Dec 2012Paid-up subscribers

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is defined as an increase in mean pulmonary arterial pressure = 25 mmHg at rest as assessed invasively by right heart catheterisation. It can affect patients at any age and presents with non-specific symptoms. Accurate diagnosis is important as while PH is a potentially lethal disease it is treatable. Identification of the cause of PH is crucial to ensure that the patient receives appropriate management.

Occupational asthma often goes unrecognised

12 Dec 2012Paid-up subscribers

Occupational asthma is induced de novo by an airborne agent encountered in the workplace. The risk of occupational asthma is greater in those with a prior atopic history. Work-exacerbated asthma is the provocation of pre-existing, or coincidental, disease by one or more irritant exposures at work. Distinguishing occupational from work-exacerbated asthma can be difficult but it is important since the two have very different clinical, occupational and legal implications. 

Improving outcomes in lung cancer patients

23 Nov 2011Registered users

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality in the UK resulting in more than 33,500 deaths in 2008, 4,000 more than for bowel and breast cancer combined. Five-year survival figures are poor but have recently improved from around 5% to 7.5% in men and 8.5% in women.There is evidence of marked variation in the standard of care in England.  It has recently been shown that if patients are first referred to a thoracic surgical centre, rather than a hospital that does not have thoracic surgeons on site, they are 51% more likely to have a resection. There are similar findings for other active treatments. By reducing this variation there is scope for marked improvement in outcomes, possibly to levels seen in other countries such as Australia, Canada, Sweden and Norway where five-year survival rates are approximately double. Thus there is a need to encourage lung cancer teams to select patients correctly so that the best treatment can be offered. Improving diagnosis, staging and fitness assessment was a major focus in the recently updated NICE guideline on diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer, published in April 2011.  [With external links to current evidence and summaries]

New tests will improve detection of latent TB

22 Nov 2011Paid-up subscribers

In the UK, after a century of declining incidence, over the past 20 years numbers of cases of active TB have increased substantially. This increase has occurred almost exclusively in individuals born outside the UK. GPs represent the first point of contact with health services for most patients, and it is crucial that GPs are aware of the clinical features of active TB, and that diagnosis can frequently be made using simple and inexpensive tests such as chest X-rays and sputum samples. There is a major focusin the UK on raising awareness of TB in frontline medical staff, through the activities of bodies such as the charity TB Alert, and the Department of Health’s National Knowledge Service TB Project At a local level, information and advice can readily be obtained through the local TB nursing service.


Allergy and anaphylaxis

Peanut allergy – is it time to change infant feeding practice?

23 Mar 2015Registered users

Early introduction of peanut into the diet of high-risk babies significantly decreases the frequency of peanut allergy at five years of age, a UK open label single-centre study has found. The present study was well designed and showed a strong effect in its primary outcome. The question many will ask is can these findings now be translated into advice for our patients? The answer is no.

Diagnosing and managing peanut allergy in children

23 Jun 2014Registered users

The prevalence of peanut allergy is thought to be rising with 1 in 70 children affected in the UK. Accidental exposures are frequent and nut allergies are the leading cause of fatal food allergic reactions. Peanut allergy most commonly presents in the first five years of life. More than 90% of nut allergic children will have a history of eczema, asthma, rhinitis or another food allergy. The clinical diagnosis of peanut allergy is made from a typical history in combination with clinical evidence of sensitisation i.e. the presence of peanut-specific IgE or positive skin prick tests. [With external links to the evidence base]

Optimising treatment of allergic rhinitis in children

24 Jun 2013Paid-up subscribers

Acute and chronic symptoms of allergic rhinitis can disrupt school and leisure activities, significantly reducing quality of life. Temporal patterns of exacerbation give clues as to the most important aeroallergens implicated.  Where continuing deterioration presents a challenge and allergic symptoms remain uncontrolled, patients should be referred to a specialist allergy service to be considered for immunotherapy. [With external links to the evidence base]

Diagnosing and managing food allergy in children

22 Jun 2011Paid-up subscribers

Studies suggest that the prevalence of food allergy in children in the UK is now around 5%.The number of children put on restricted diets by their parents because of presumed allergy is likely to be much higher. A recent study in the Isle of Wight found that 33% of mothers thought their child had had an allergic reaction to food by the age of three. Careful documentation using a targeted and thorough history usually makes it possible to distinguish suspected IgE-mediated allergy from non IgE-mediated. Once diagnosed, management requires allergen avoidance guided by a dietician together with education in recognising and treating reactions appropriate to the underlying mechanism. Food allergy is commonly outgrown so regular reassessment is essential both to monitor for tolerance and also to look for development of allergic comorbidities. [With external links to the evidence base]


Special reports

Preventing avoidable asthma deaths

23 Sep 2014Paid-up subscribers

Deaths from asthma are frequently avoidable, the National Review of Asthma Deaths has confirmed. Key findings from the report include: Almost half the patients (45%) died without seeking medical help or before help could be provided; 10% died within 28 days of discharge from hospital; 21% had attended A&E with asthma in the previous year; and only 23% had a personal asthma action plan. Over-prescription of short-acting bronchodilators and under-prescription of preventer inhalers was common.

GPs have key role in helping patients to stop smoking

23 May 2012Paid-up subscribers

18% of all deaths in adults aged 35 or over in England are still attributable to smoking. Almost all these premature deaths could be avoided if smokers stopped before their mid-thirties but only a quarter of people who have ever smoked regularly manage to quit by this age. GP advice is one of the most important triggers to a smoker making an attempt to quit. Evidence shows that offering help to all smokers is easier, quicker and likely to be more effective than just advising smokers to stop or asking whether they are interested in quitting.

Improving outcomes in patients with cystic fibrosis

08 Aug 2011Paid-up subscribers

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is the most common fatal inherited disease in Caucasian people. Recent data indicate that there are more than 9,000 patients with CF in the UK. This would equate to around one or two patients for an average GP practice. Recognising the symptoms and signs that may point to a diagnosis of CF is important so that appropriate referral and investigations can be organised. Symptoms suggestive of CF in the first two years of life include failure to thrive, steatorrhoea, recurrent chest infections, meconium ileus, rectal prolapse and prolonged neonatal jaundice. In older children, additional suggestive symptoms include ‘asthma'-like symptoms, clubbing and idiopathic bronchiectasis, nasal polyps and sinusitis, and heat exhaustion with hyponatraemia. Suggestive symptoms in patients who present in adulthood, who are more likely to have atypical CF, include azoospermia, bronchiectasis, chronic sinusitis, acute or chronic pancreatitis, allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, focal biliary cirrhosis, abnormal glucose tolerance, portal hypertension and cholestasis/gallstones. [With external links to the evidence base]

Identifying the culprit allergen in seasonal allergic rhinitis

30 May 2011Paid-up subscribers

Seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR) is a global health problem and affects 20% of the UK population. It is the main form of rhinitis in children whereas in adults it accounts for about a third of cases. SAR can have  a significant impact on patients' quality of life. It can lead to non-attendance and underperformance at school and work and results in substantial NHS costs. In children, it may affect GCSE results as the grass pollen season coincides with exams. SAR is a risk factor for the development of asthma and chronic rhinosinusitis which may be difficult to treat. As the major burden of allergic rhinitis is on primary care, GPs play a key role in the management of these patients.

Passive smoking damages children’s health

29 May 2010Paid-up subscribers

The simplest way to prevent passive exposure of children to tobacco smoke is to encourage and support their parents to quit smoking. For parents and other family members who will not or cannot quit smoking, the next best course of action is to make the home environment in which children live completely smoke-free. Primary care health professionals, in common with all health professionals, therefore need to engage with smoking prevention and cessation initiatives at all levels, but particularly in all contacts with individual patients who smoke, or family members who smoke. As educators, GPs and practice nurses can explore with GP and nursing trainees the importance of smoking cessation in preventing disease and improving health, an element that is barely covered in the traditional organ-based medical school curricula. [With external links to the evidence base]