Aims: The diagnosis and management of vitamin B12 deficiency varies between countries and within countries. The aim of the study was to map current attitudes and values behind clinical decision-making in Swedish primary health care, which has a unique B12 tradition: two patients out of three are treated with oral high-dose cyanocobalamin. Most patients with B12-associated problems are managed in primary health care by general practitioners (GPs).
Methods: The study was designed to elucidate possible opinion shifts among GPs during the period 1996-1998. GPs (n=499), stratified and randomized, received a questionnaire with 24 statements on B12-associated clinical and laboratory problems, to be evaluated by a visuo-analogue scale.
Results: The majority of GPs in primary health care in Sweden accepted homocysteine and methylmalonic acid (MMA) as markers for functional deficiency of vitamin B12. The evaluation of classical markers of B12 deficiency was wary and balanced. There was a consensus of the need for B12 therapy to risk groups such as patients with atrophic gastritis or previous gastric surgery. The answers also appeared to reflect an improvement of professional knowledge and competence concerning B12-associated problems among Swedish GPs between 1996 and 1998.
Conclusions: The overriding conclusion was that B12-associated opinions of Swedish GPs were stable within the period studied, with marginal improvements of knowledge and competence.