Aim: To investigate the optimal strategy to treat dyspeptic patients in primary care.
Methods: Dyspeptic patients presenting to primary care outpatient clinics were randomly assigned to: (1) empirical endoscopy, (2) H pylori test-and-treat, and (3) empirical prokinetic treatment with cisapride. Early endoscopy was arranged if patients remained symptomatic after 2 wk. Symptom severity, quality-of-life (SF-36) as well as patient preference and satisfaction were assessed. All patients underwent endoscopy by wk 6. Patients were followed up for one year.
Results: Two hundred and thirty four patients were recruited (163 female, mean age 49). 46% were H pylori positive. 26% of H pylori tested and 25% of empirical prokinetic patients showed no improvement at wk 2 follow-up and needed early endoscopy. 15% of patients receiving empirical cisapride responded well to treatment but peptic ulcer was the final diagnosis. Symptom resolution and quality-of-life were similar among the groups. Costs for the three strategies were HK dollar 4343, dollar 1771 and dollar 1750 per patient. 66% of the patients preferred to have early endoscopy.
Conclusion: The three strategies are equally effective. Empirical prokinetic treatment was the least expensive but peptic ulcers may be missed with this treatment. The H pylori test-and-treat was the most cost-effective option.