BACKGROUND: In patients initially suspected of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) the diagnosis can be confirmed in approximately 10 to 30% of cases. For the majority of patients this means that eventually an alternative diagnosis is assigned.
OBJECTIVE: To assess the frequency distribution of alternative diagnoses and subsequent management of patients in primary care after initial exclusion of DVT. In addition, assess the value of ultrasound examination for the allocation of alternative diagnoses.
METHODS: Data were recorded by general practitioners alongside a diagnostic study in primary care in the Netherlands (AMUSE). Additional data were retrieved from a three-month follow-up questionnaire. A descriptive analysis was performed using these combined data.
RESULTS: The most prevalent diagnoses were muscle rupture (18.5%), chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) (14.6%), erysipelas/cellulitis (12.6%) and superficial venous thrombosis (SVT) (10.9%). Alternative diagnoses were based mainly on physical examination; ultrasound examination (US) did not improve the diagnostic yield for the allocation of alternative diagnoses. In about 30% of all cases, a wait and see approach was used (27 to 41%). During the three-month follow-up nine patients were diagnosed with venous thromboembolic disease, three of which occurred in patients with the working diagnosis of SVT (p=0.026).
CONCLUSIONS: We found that after exclusion of DVT in general practice a wait and see policy in the primary care setting is uneventful for almost one third of patients, but with the alternative diagnosis of SVT, patients may require closer surveillance since we found a significant association with thrombosis in these patients.
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