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Managing Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) in Primary Care

Managing Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) in Primary Care

Teaser: 

Paul J. Moroz, MD, MSc, FRCSC,1 Jessica Romeo, RN (EC), MN, BScN,2Marcel Abouassaly, MD, FRCSC,3

1Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario.
2Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario.
3Fellow in Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, Ontario.

CLINICAL TOOLS

Abstract: Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) is a condition requiring early detection for appropriate management. Bracing can be effective in preventing curve progression so failing to detect a small AIS curve in a growing child could result in losing the opportunity to avoid a major surgical procedure. Doubts about cost-effectiveness have ended most school screening programs and assessment is now provided mainly by primary care providers. The ability to conduct a quick effective scoliosis examination is important for the busy practitioner. This article illustrates the main features of the screening test, offers guides for imaging, and outlines appropriate tips for specialist referral.
Key Words: Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS), diagnosis, physical exam, Adams Forward Bend Test, primary care.

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1. This can be done with a patient's gown open or closed at the back.
2. The measurement is performed with the examiner sitting and observing the patient from behind. It can be done at the same time as the AFBT, since the examiner is in the same position.
3. With the patient standing erect in bare feet and with the knees extended, the examiner rests his/her hands on top of the iliac crests with fingers extended and palms parallel to the floor. With both the patient's feet flat on the floor, the relative levels of the hands give a surprisingly sensitive estimate of significant LLD (Figure 2).
4. There are alternative methods to measure leg lengths with the patient supine by using a tape measure. These techniques require familiarity with pelvic and ankle landmarks, are time consuming and are remarkably prone to measurement errors.
IMAGING FOR SUSPECTED SPINAL DEFORMITY
1. Radiation exposure using modern radiographic techniques, including digital radiography, is significantly lower than in the past.5
2. Radiologists' reports may use terms related to the spine that can be misleading and worrisome. Cobb angles less than 10 degrees should not be described as scoliosis but rather as "spinal asymmetry" since the term "scoliosis" may prompt an unnecessary referral to a specialist.
3. If imaging is indicated, it is best done at a centre where the patient will be seen in consultation. Radiologists at these centres have the experience to accurately interpret imaging results and correctly report spinal deformity. This also avoids the unfortunate situation where inadequate imaging done elsewhere must be repeated at the referral centre, significantly increasing the patient's radiation dose.
4. Never order a "scoliosis series". It is an obsolete term that referred to pre-operative assessment films. It is still found on some x-ray requisition forms and may be ordered in a misguided attempt to provide the surgeon with as much information as possible. Since the vast majority of patients seen by the spine surgeon will not require surgery, this option is needlessly expensive and the added radiation may be harmful to the patient.
5. The authors allow patients to take smart phone or tablet images of their own spinal x-rays. This engages the patient and their parents or guardians in the management. Take account of all regulatory and privacy issues regarding patient's recording of even their own images.
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Screening for Dementia: First Signs and Symptoms Reported by Family Caregivers

Screening for Dementia: First Signs and Symptoms Reported by Family Caregivers

Teaser: 

Mary A. Corcoran, OTR, PhD, Professor of Clinical Research and Leadership, The George Washington University, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC, USA.

There is an average delay of 20 months between the first recognition of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder (ADRD) and the seeking of physician help. One reason for this delay is tendency for families to miss early symptoms until the onset of behavioural disturbances. Families may provide more timely accounts with prompted questions. It is important to diagnose cognitive impairment early since there are potential benefits to early treatment. The purpose of this article is to help guide caregivers in identifying a list of symptoms that reflect first indicators of ADRD, based on a study of 68 spouse caregivers of patients with ADRD.
Key words: Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, caregivers, diagnosis, primary care.

Palliative Care in the Primary Care Setting

Palliative Care in the Primary Care Setting

Teaser: 

Sandy Buchman, MD, CCFP, FCFP, Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON; and McMaster University, Hamilton,ON; Palliative Care Physician, The Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care and The Baycrest Geriatric Health System, Toronto, ON.
Anthony Hung, MD, FRCPC, Fellow in Palliative Care, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.
Hershl Berman, MD, FRCPC, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto; Staff Physician, Department of Medicine, University Health Network, Toronto, ON; Associated Medical Services Fellow in End of Life Care Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.

The principle of “cradle-to-grave” care is fundamental to the discipline of family medicine. This includes palliative care. However, many physicians are not comfortable providing care at the end of life. Challenges include logistical support and proficiency and comfort in the specific skills required, such as pain and other symptom management. The following case presents an example of successful palliative care, provided in the primary care setting, from diagnosis of a life-threatening illness to death in a palliative care unit.
Key words: palliative care, end of life, primary care, family medicine, longitudinal care.

Supporting and Treating the Older Adult with Cancer: It Starts in Primary Care

Supporting and Treating the Older Adult with Cancer: It Starts in Primary Care

Teaser: 

As I rapidly advance towards the geriatric age group, fears of cancer, in my case colon cancer because of a positive family history, start to increase. As a result, the unpleasantness of a recent colonoscopy was greatly alleviated later on by learning that I had no polyps or tumours. I am not alone in my concern about cancer, and the increasing prevalence of cancer as our population ages (and as age-corrected cardiovascular mortality declines) make these concerns quite legitimate. This high prevalence of cancer means that nearly all physicians--specialists as well as family physicians--who cares for adult patients will be caring for individuals with cancer in their practice. This issue’s focus on cancer in older adults allows us to address some of the learning needs of physicians caring for older adults with cancer.

Before her untimely death from breast cancer, a colleague of mine at the University Health Network wrote poignantly about the fatigue she experienced with her cancer. This taught me that as important as relieving pain is in cancer, many other symptoms are equally distressing for the patient. Our continuing education article this month is on some of these symptoms, and is titled “Fatigue, Pain, and Depression among Older Adults with Cancer: Still Underrecognized and Undertreated” by Dr. Manmeet Aluwhalia. An overview for supportive care of patients with cancer is addressed in the article ”Psychosocial Oncology for Older Adults in the Primary Care Physician’s Office” by Dr. Bejoy Thomas and Dr. Barry Bultz. Finally, in the same vein, is the article “Palliative Care in the Primary Care Setting” by Dr. Sandy Buchman, Dr. Anthony Hung, and Dr. Hershl Berman.

Our Cardiovascular Disease column this month is on “Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease among Older Adults: An Update on the Evidence” by Dr. Pamela Katz and Dr. Jeremy Gilbert. Our Dementia column is on “Managing Non-Alzheimer’s Dementia with Drugs” by Dr. Kannayiram Alagiakrishnan and Dr. Cheryl Sadowski. One of the most important problems facing older adults, “Age-Related Hearing Loss,” is addressed by Dr. Christopher Hilton and Dr. Tina Huang. Urinary incontinence is usually considered a concern for older women; however, men are not exempt. Our Men’s Health column this month is on “Urinary Incontinence among Aging Men,” and is written by Dr. Ehab A. Elzayat, Dr. Ali Alzahran, and Dr. Jerzy Gajewski, who is a member of our partner association, the Canadian Society for the Study of the Aging Male. Dr. Gayatri Gupta and one of our international advisers, Dr. Wilbert S. Aronow, contribute an important article on "Prevalence of the Use of Advance Directives among Residents of a Long-term Care Facility" this month. Finally, it is imperative that physicians acknowledge the increasing prevalence of herbal medication use, which can lead to adverse drug interactions among their older patients. Dr. Edzard Ernst reviews this this topic in "What Physicians Should Know about Herbal Medicines.

Enjoy this issue.
Barry Goldlist

Screening for Early Dementia in Primary Care

Screening for Early Dementia in Primary Care

Teaser: 


Ellen Grober, PhD, Department of Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA.

We have developed and validated a cost-effective case finding tool for early dementia in primary care that consists of two stages: a rapid dementia screening test administered to all patients over the age of 65 and a second stage to identify memory impairment administered to patients who fail the first stage. The Alzheimer’s Disease Screen for Primary Care (ADS-PC) had high sensitivity and specificity for early dementia and higher sensitivity for AD, and distinguished AD from non-AD dementias. The ADS-PC outperformed the MMSE and worked equally well in African-American and Caucasian primary care patients and in patients that differed in educational level.
Key words: Alzheimer’s disease, early dementia, mass screening, primary health care, neuropsychological tests.

Primary Care Issues in Renal Transplant Recipients

Primary Care Issues in Renal Transplant Recipients

Teaser: 

Jeffrey Schiff, MD, FRCP(C), Instructor, Division of Medicine, University of Toronto; Division of Nephrology and Multi-Organ Transplant Program, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto, ON.

Due to the excellent outcomes of renal transplantation, there is an increasing number of people surviving with, or receiving a transplant, at an older age. While the transplant centre usually manages the immunosuppression and renal problems, these individuals also require primary care. This article will review the common health issues that primary care physicians encounter routinely among these patients. Common problems include managing cardiovascular risk factors, screening for malignancy, vaccinations, treatment of uncomplicated infections, and bone disease. Important drug interactions will be reviewed. Communication between the primary care physician and the transplant centre will also improve care of these patients.
Key words: renal transplantation, primary care, cardiovascular disease, drug interactions, chronic kidney disease.

Benzodiazepine Use among Older Adults: A Problem for Family Medicine?

Benzodiazepine Use among Older Adults: A Problem for Family Medicine?

Teaser: 

Steve Iliffe, FRCGP, Professor of Primary Care for Older People, Research Department of Primary Care, University College London, UK.

Long-term benzodiazepine use in older adults with sleep disorders is potentially hazardous, but it is also becoming easier to manage as approaches to withdrawal become feasible in primary care, without adverse consequences. This article reviews the evidence and describes practical approaches to reducing consumption of benzodiazepine hypnotics.
Key words: benzodiazepines, insomnia, older adults, primary care, hypnotics.

Improving Detection Rates and Management of Dementia in Primary Care through Educational Interventions

Improving Detection Rates and Management of Dementia in Primary Care through Educational Interventions

Teaser: 


Kristin Casady, Editorial Director, Geriatrics & Aging.

A recent study examined the effectiveness of educational interventions in improving detection and management of dementia in the primary care setting (BMJ 2006;332:692-6). Achieving improved detection rates and advances in the provision of ongoing care for demented individuals is facilitated by the integration of decision support systems and practice-based workshops, the study’s authors concluded.

Introduction

Primary care practitioners play a role of fundamental importance in diagnosing dementia as they are the point of patients’ first medical contact. Practitioners must deliver prompt intervention and provide ongoing care for their patients receiving the diagnosis, yet inadequate detection and management have been widely documented. Further, it is observed that clinicians often face profound obstacles in executing this role. There may be difficulty in assessing the presence of dementia (for a recent discussion of the diagnosis and treatment of the older adult with cognitive complaints, see Myronuk L. Pitfalls in the diagnosis of dementia. Geriatrics Aging 2006;9:12-9). Challenges are reported to include such barriers as a lack of resources and insufficient cooperation among the general practitioner’s team, involved specialists, and community services.

Assessing Effective Diagnosis and Management: Study of U.K. Practices
Thirty-six general practices in the United Kingdom (central Scotland and London) were recruited as settings for an unblinded, cluster randomized, before-and-after controlled study organized around the provision of three educational interventions: one, a CD-ROM tutorial; two, decision-support software built into the practices’ electronic medical records; and three, practice-based workshops for the general practitioners (the curriculum used is available for download from the U.K.’s Alzheimer’s Society website, www.alzheimers.org.uk). Eight practices were randomly assigned to the electronic tutorial; eight to decision-support software; 10 to practice-based workshops; and 10 to control. Results were obtained from 450 valid and usable records. The design of the interventions was modeled to reflect different approaches to adult learning: the electronic tutorial for self-directed learning; decision-support software for real-time investigations of actual cases; and workshops to facilitate peer communication about the cases under consideration.

Based on searches of the record system for the terms dementia, confusion, memory loss, and cognitive impairment, all practices identified registered patients aged 75 and over who were diagnosed as having dementia or had been assessed as having probable dementia by a general practitioner or specialist.
Investigators audited detection rates prior to and approximately nine months after the intervention. Analysis was conducted of differences in baseline concordance scores with best-practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of dementia, repeating the analysis for postintervention scores. The ten-item diagnosis concordance score gathered data on items that included whether clinicians took measures such as requesting blood tests at index consultation, took full histories, undertook cognitive testing, and completed scans, both at index consultation and then secondarily after index consultation (before diagnosis). Management concordance scores tracked items such as concerns of caregivers, behaviour problems, depression screening/treatment, referrals to social services, and initiation of pharmacological treatment regiments.

Outcome: Improved Rates of Detection

Regarding changes in rates of detection, diagnosis, and management, the study’s authors noted improved rates of detected dementia with decision-support software and practice-based workshops compared with control: individuals identified as having dementia after the interventions represented 31% of all cases diagnosed in the practice-based workshops arm, 20% in the electronic tutorial arm, 30% in the decision support software arm, and 11% in the control arm. Authors reported the positive effect of the decision-support software as particularly encouraging, with practitioners describing software as simple and practical to implement. However, no difference in concordance with guidelines regarding the management of dementia was noted. This outcome was ascribed to the modest number of cases identified after the intervention and the relatively few cases in the control arm. The result was also described as traceable to the investigators relying on the medical record for evidence of practice; they postulated that practitioners may have improved their practice but not noted it. The authors highlighted the value of focussed educational interventions directed at improving clinical record-keeping.

Conclusion
Successful management of dementing illnesses depends first on effective detection. This study affirms that interventions such as decision-support software and practice-based workshops can improve those rates. The authors highlight that future interventions aimed at improving concordance with recommended diagnosis or management may be furthered by the effect of combining locality initiatives with practice-based interventions, such as ones that incorporate local opinion leaders as well as encourage the direct involvement of patients and caregivers.

A Review of Older Women's Health Priorities

A Review of Older Women's Health Priorities

Teaser: 

Deborah Radcliffe-Branch, PhD, University of Montreal, Centre de Recherche, Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, Montréal, QC.
Cara Tannenbaum, MDCM, MSc, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics, University of Montreal, Centre de Recherche, Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal, Montréal, QC.

Older women are one of the most rapidly growing segments of the Canadian population. This growth necessitates an evaluation of the quality and breadth of care women receive to promote successful aging in later life. Older women’s perceptions of health priorities being addressed by the current health care system and those for which improvements are required are reviewed. Recommendations include screening for memory loss, falls, muscle weakness, depression, and urinary incontinence. Guidelines for assessment and prevention as well as the adoption of a patient-centred approach to care are suggested to address the broader context of promoting physical, emotional, and social well-being for older women.
Key words: older women’s health, health priorities, patient-centred care, screening guidelines, primary care.

Primary Care Prevention of Suicide among Older Adults

Primary Care Prevention of Suicide among Older Adults

Teaser: 



Marnin J. Heisel, PhD, C.Psych,
Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide, Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY, USA.
Paul S. Links, MD, FRCP(C), Arthur Sommer Rotenberg Chair in Suicide Studies, Suicide Studies Unit, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto/St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, ON.


Older adults have high rates of suicide worldwide. Suicide rates increase with advancing age, and older adults typically use highly lethal means of self-destruction. In addition, suicidal older adults tend to pursue treatment in primary care rather than mental health settings, but current limitations in the primary care system potentially restrict suicide prevention in older patients. We briefly review the epidemiology of late-life suicide and suggest modifications in primary care to better address the psychosocial needs of at-risk older adults, supported by research on suicide risk and resiliency, clinical assessment and treatment options, and collaborative models of primary medicine and mental healthcare.
Key words: suicide, suicide ideation, suicidal behaviour, older adults, primary care.