Concise Reviews for Primary-Care Physicians
A Practical 5-Step Approach to Nausea and VomitingNausea and vomiting (N/V) are common presenting complaints in the outpatient and inpatient settings. These symptoms can be associated with high morbidity and poor quality of life, particularly in those with chronic symptoms. The clinical approach to N/V can be challenging, given the numerous possible underlying causes as well as the vast array of diagnostic and therapeutic options. In this concise review, we provide a practical 5-step approach to the clinical evaluation and treatment of N/V, suitable for application in the primary care and subspecialty settings.
Evaluation and Management of VaginitisVaginitis is a common concern for women across the lifespan. Vaginal symptoms may impact quality of life, and clinicians are challenged in the evaluation and management of bacterial vaginosis, Candida vaginitis, trichomoniasis, desquamative inflammatory vaginitis, and genitourinary syndrome of menopause.
A Practical Guide to the Evaluation of Small Bowel BleedingGastrointestinal bleeding is a common clinical problem encountered in both the inpatient and outpatient settings. Although the evaluation of upper and lower gastrointestinal bleeding is often straightforward, bleeding from the small bowel may pose a clinical challenge. In this article, we review the indications, modalities, and differential diagnoses of small bowel bleeding. On completion of the article, clinicians should be able to identify common causes of small bowel bleeding, understand the advantages and disadvantages of the modalities used to evaluate small bowel bleeding, and enact a stepwise management approach to the patient with presumed small bowel bleeding.
Evaluation and Management of Pelvic Organ ProlapsePelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a common clinical entity that can have a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life secondary to symptoms of pelvic pressure, vaginal bulge, urinary and bowel dysfunction, or sexual dysfunction. It is highly prevalent, with roughly 13% of women undergoing surgery for prolapse in their lifetime. Vaginal prolapse is diagnosed by history and physical examination. Additional testing may be indicated for evaluation of bowel and bladder symptoms. On examination, prolapse can represent descent of the anterior vaginal wall, vaginal apex (cervix/uterus or vaginal cuff scar after hysterectomy), or posterior vaginal wall, although it represents a combination of these in many cases.
Microscopic Colitis: A Concise Review for CliniciansMicroscopic colitis (MC) is an inflammatory disease of the colon and a common cause of chronic watery diarrhea, predominantly in older patients. Microscopic colitis encompasses 2 different subtypes, lymphocytic colitis and collagenous colitis. The colon typically appears normal endoscopically in MC, and the diagnosis requires histologic evaluation. Whereas recent studies suggest that the incidence of MC has plateaued, given the aging of the population, the prevalence of MC will likely increase. Risk factors for MC include increasing age; female sex; presence of other autoimmune diseases; and possibly use of certain medications, including proton pump inhibitors, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and statins.
Preventing Breast Cancer Through Identification and Pharmacologic Management of High-Risk PatientsBreast cancer remains the most common cancer in women in the United States. For certain women at high risk for breast cancer, endocrine therapy (ET) can greatly decrease the risk. Tools such as the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool (or Gail Model) and the International Breast Cancer Intervention Study risk calculator are available to help identify women at increased risk for breast cancer. Physician awareness of family history, reproductive and lifestyle factors, dense breast tissue, and history of benign proliferative breast disease are important when identifying high-risk women.
Physician Distress and Burnout: The Neurobiological PerspectivePhysician burnout and other forms of occupational distress are a significant problem in modern medicine, especially during the coronavirus disease pandemic, yet few doctors are familiar with the neurobiology that contributes to these problems. Burnout has been linked to changes that reduce a physician’s sense of control over their own practice, undermine connections with patients and colleagues, interfere with work-life integration, and result in uncontrolled stress. Brain research has revealed that uncontrollable stress, but not controllable stress, impairs the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, a recently evolved brain region that provides top-down regulation over thought, action, and emotion.
Contraceptive Challenges in Women With Common Medical ConditionsWomen have the opportunity to meet personal contraceptive goals with convenient, highly reliable, and easily reversible methods. Long-acting reversible contraception represents an increasingly popular option for most women throughout the reproductive lifespan. Nonetheless, many women and their health care providers are challenged by coexisting medical issues. We aim to help clinicians individualize contraception and use shared decision-making to enhance patient satisfaction and continuation with their method.
Remaining Challenges With Transcatheter Left Atrial Appendage ClosureLeft atrial appendage closure has emerged as a feasible stroke prevention strategy in selected patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation. Since its commercial approval in the United States in 2015, the use of percutaneous left atrial appendage closure has witnessed a substantial growth. However, certain issues remain unresolved with the technology. Knowledge of these issues, their significance, and the current and future efforts to resolve them is key for proper informed decision making by physicians and patients.
Pulmonary Hypertension: A Brief Guide for CliniciansPulmonary hypertension (PH) is classified into 5 clinical subgroups: pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), PH due to left-sided heart disease, PH due to chronic lung disease, chronic thromboembolic PH (CTEPH), and PH with an unclear and/or multifactorial mechanisms. A range of underlying conditions can lead to these disorders. Overall, PH affects approximately 1% of the global population, and over half of patients with heart failure may be affected. Cardiologists are therefore likely to encounter PH in their practice.
Disorders of Consciousness and Disability LawIn 2018, the American Academy of Neurology, the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research published a systematic evidence-based review and an associated practice guideline for improved assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation of patients with disorders of consciousness. Patients with disorders of consciousness include individuals in the vegetative and minimally conscious states, as well as others with covert consciousness and cognitive motor dissociation.
Disability Evaluation and Treatment for Patients With Psychiatric DisordersPrimary care physicians (PCPs) are often asked to perform disability evaluations for patients with psychiatric disorders, which are now a leading cause of disability worldwide. After acknowledging the limitations of disability assessments for all conditions, this review aims to provide PCPs with practical knowledge to inform their assessments and interventions with a focus on patients with depression. After the disability definitions and programs in the United States are reviewed, a pragmatic approach to assessing function and discussing return to work is offered.
Lactose Intolerance: A Concise Review to Skim the SurfaceLactose intolerance is a common but poorly understood cause of gastrointestinal symptoms. Contrary to popular belief, there is much more to its diagnosis beyond symptoms with exposure and management beyond milk- and dairy-product avoidance. In this article, we review definitions, genetic basis, pathogenesis, clinical signs, as well as diagnostic and management strategies.
Breast Cancer Risk Assessment: A Step-Wise Approach for Primary Care Providers on the Front Lines of Shared Decision MakingBreast cancer-screening guidelines increasingly recommend that clinicians perform a risk assessment for breast cancer to inform shared decision making for screening. Precision medicine is quickly becoming the preferred approach to cancer screening, with the aim of increased surveillance in high-risk women, while sparing lower-risk women the burden of unnecessary imaging. Risk assessment also informs clinical care by refining screening recommendations for younger women, identifying women who should be referred to genetic counseling, and identifying candidates for risk-reducing medications.
Ophthalmic Emergencies for the ClinicianPrimary care physicians are at the forefront of patient care and often are the first clinicians to triage and diagnose any eye-related complaints. They must be able to quickly identify vision-threatening pathologies, as delay in treatment of an ocular emergency can result in permanent vision loss. This concise review describes the definition, presentation, examination, and management of various ophthalmic emergencies including blunt ocular trauma, chemical ocular injury, orbital cellulitis, endophthalmitis, acute angle closure glaucoma, optic neuritis, giant cell arteritis, central retinal artery occlusion, retinal detachment, and homonymous hemianopia in a succinct manner.
Opioids in Older Adults: Indications, Prescribing, Complications, and Alternative Therapies for Primary CareThe fact that opioids are valuable tools for the management of pain has been known and used for thousands of years. Currently, millions of Americans are treated annually with opioids, and many of these patients are elderly. Opioids present risks to geriatric patients, some of which are unique to the population, and providers should have a good grasp of those risks. An understanding of how to select appropriate medications for the management of pain and of the myriad of alternatives available for pain management is vital to the care of older patients.
Current Management and Treatment Options for Breast PainBreast pain is a commonly experienced symptom in women of all ages and can significantly impact quality of life. Fear of cancer prompts many patients to report their pain, although risk for malignancy is low in the absence of a palpable mass or other abnormal finding on breast examination. All patients with breast pain should have a thorough history and physical examination to determine if diagnostic imaging is indicated. Management of breast pain without anatomic or radiographic abnormalities depends on pain type and severity.
Evaluation and Treatment of Overactive Bladder in WomenOveractive bladder (OAB) is a symptom complex that includes urinary urgency, frequency, urgency incontinence, and nocturia. It is highly prevalent, affecting up to 12% of the adult population, and can significantly impact quality of life. The diagnosis of OAB is made by history, physical examination, and a urinalysis to rule out underlying infection or other concerning potential etiologies. The need for additional testing is based on the initial evaluation findings, and is recommended in cases of underlying urinary tract infection, microscopic hematuria, obstructive voiding symptoms, and symptoms refractory to previous treatments.
Assessing and Counseling the Older Driver: A Concise Review for the Generalist ClinicianOlder drivers are putting more miles on the road during their “golden years” than generations prior. Many older adults have safe driving habits, but unique age-related changes increase the risk for crash-related morbidity and mortality. Generalists are poised to assess and guide older adults' driving fitness. Although there is no uniformly accepted tool for driving fitness, assessment of 5 key domains (cognition, vision, physical function, medical comorbidities, and medications) using valid tools can help clinicians stratify older drivers into low, intermediate, and high risk for unsafe driving.
Wernicke Encephalopathy—Clinical PearlsWernicke encephalopathy (WE) was first described by Carl Wernicke in 1881. WE is caused by thiamine deficiency. Alcoholism is the most common etiologic factor associated with WE in the United States, but it can occur in any patient with a nutritional deficiency state such as hyperemesis gravidarum, intestinal obstruction, and malignancy. WE is a clinical diagnosis. The common findings include mental status changes, ocular dysfunction, and a gait apraxia, present in only 10% of cases. Only a few cases of WE are diagnosed before death.
Acute Flaccid Myelitis: A Clinical Overview for 2019Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) is characterized by flaccid paralysis of one or more limbs, often following a viral illness, with magnetic resonance imaging findings consistent with inflammation of the spinal cord gray matter. It is unclear whether all patients with AFM will have full recovery of neurologic function. Since 2014, there have been several clusters of AFM in the United States, with a 3-fold increase in reported AFM cases recorded in 2018 compared with the previous year. Epidemiological evidence supports a temporal association between respiratory enteroviral illness, particularly with enteroviruses D68 and A71, and clustering of AFM cases.
Portal Hypertension and Related Complications: Diagnosis and ManagementPortal hypertension is a major complication of cirrhosis, and its consequences, including ascites, esophageal varices, hepatic encephalopathy, and hepatorenal syndrome, lead to substantial morbidity and mortality. The past several decades have seen major improvements in the clinical management of complications of portal hypertension, resulting in substantial gains in patient outcomes. However, important challenges remain. This review focuses on the pathophysiology and diagnosis of portal hypertension and discusses general approaches in the management of patients with ascites as a result of portal hypertension.
Institutional Review Boards: What Clinician Researchers Need to KnowThe institutional review board (IRB) is a group federally mandated to review and monitor research involving humans to ensure protection of their rights and welfare as research participants. Clinicians engaged in research require IRB approval for all research involving human participants, whether living individuals, data, or specimens. The process for obtaining IRB approval may seem like a daunting task. However, it is critical for clinical researchers to conduct research in a manner that protects human participants, and it is the mission of the IRB to help researchers accomplish this task.
Evaluation and Management of Abnormal Uterine BleedingAbnormal uterine bleeding (AUB) is a common condition that leads to increased health care costs and decreased quality of life. A systematic approach to AUB evaluation can simplify management and enhance women’s well-being. Abnormal uterine bleeding describes any variation from normal bleeding patterns in nonpregnant, reproductive-aged women beyond menarche lasting for at least 6 months. Ambiguous and inconsistent use of terminology and definitions to characterize AUB in the past decades necessitated a new, consensus-based approach to nomenclature and AUB evaluation.
Chronic Abdominal Wall Pain: A Common Yet Overlooked Etiology of Chronic Abdominal PainChronic abdominal wall pain is a common, yet often overlooked, cause of chronic abdominal pain in both the outpatient and inpatient settings. This disorder most commonly affects middle-aged adults and is more prevalent in women than in men. In chronic abdominal wall pain, the pain occurs due to entrapment of the cutaneous branches of the sensory nerves that supply the abdominal wall. Although the diagnosis of chronic abdominal wall pain can be made using patient history, physical examination, and response to a trigger point injection, patients often undergo extensive and exhaustive laboratory, imaging, and procedural work-up before being diagnosed with this condition, given it is often overlooked.