Aim: To define the characteristics of patients consulting with active dyspeptic symptoms in urban general practice, and to consider the implications of applying the British Society of Gastroenterology Dyspepsia management guidelines.
Design: Prospective observational study over a period of 12 months.
Setting: Two multipartner, two-centre general practices in the City of Leeds (UK) with a combined target population of 11 011 registered patients.
Subjects: A total of 340 patients consulting with active dyspeptic symptoms (52% male; mean age 53 years, range 16-89 years).
Results: Of the practice population, 3% consulted with dyspepsia (first-time consulter: 19%; previous consulter not yet investigated: 30%; previously investigated: 51%). Of 168 undiagnosed patients, 43% had upper abdominal pain (dysmotility-like symptoms in 42%), 35% had reflux symptoms, 22% had mixed symptoms, 12% had 'alarm' symptoms and 18% had a history of NSAID use. Patients < 45 years old with simple dyspepsia accounted for 32% of undiagnosed cases. A fifth of the workload was in dealing with undiagnosed dyspeptics over 45 years old. One per cent of the population would require endoscopy if all undiagnosed cases either > 45 years or with complicated dyspepsia were investigated. Of 172 previously investigated patients, 29% had negative tests, 25% had 'minor' findings, and 45% had evidence of acid-peptic disease. Patients with duodenal ulcer disease accounted for 12% of the total workload.
Conclusions: A knowledge of the characteristics of patients consulting with dyspepsia in primary care should allow the adaptation of guidelines, to ensure advice is relevant to local case mix and compatible with local resources.