Sports injuries

January/February 2010

General practitioners’ use of cardiovascular risk calculators

Volume 39, No.1, January/February 2010 Pages 57-60

Amy Imms

Stephen Quinn

Mark Nelson

Background

This study was designed to investigate general practitioners’ knowledge of absolute risk estimation, and whether they used it to guide their management of cardiovascular disease.

Methods

A cross sectional postal self administered survey of GPs in the General Practice South Division in southern Tasmania.

Results

A total of 56–62% of responders correctly answered knowledge questions, which could be as low as 33–36% when corrected for nonresponse bias. A cardiovascular risk calculator was used by 72% (as low as 42% when corrected for nonresponse bias); of these, 93% used them to motivate lifestyle change and for education, and 66% used them to assist disease management. General practitioners who used risk calculators tended to rate some factors more highly as contributing to cardiovascular disease, such as Aboriginality and diabetes.

Discussion

Many GPs were using absolute risk calculators, and most used them appropriately as decision making tools, not just for education or motivation. Further education of GPs about cardiovascular risk is still indicated.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Australia and elsewhere, accounting for 17% of all deaths in Australia in 2006.1 The traditional approach to primary prevention has been to identify at risk individuals through individual risk factors, for example ‘hypertension’ and ‘hypercholesterolaemia’. There are positive associations between the level of these individual risk factors and adverse cardiovascular events.2 There also are effective therapies that have been shown to decrease these risk factors and the subsequent number of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE). For example, antihypertensive drugs and statins have been shown to not only reduce blood pressure and total cholesterol respectively, but also to reduce the risk of MACE such as heart failure and stroke.3,4

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Correspondence afp@racgp.org.au

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