Background: In patients with lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) it is a challenge to identify who should be treated with antibiotics. According to international guidelines, antibiotics should be prescribed to patients with suspected pneumonia while acute bronchitis is considered a viral infection and should, generally, not be treated with antibiotics. Overdiagnosis of pneumonia in patients with LRTIs may lead to antibiotic overprescribing.
Aims: To investigate the prevalence of presumed pneumonia in patients with LRTI in two countries with different antibiotic prescribing rates (Denmark and Spain) and to compare which symptoms and clinical tests are of most importance for the GP when choosing a diagnosis of pneumonia rather than acute bronchitis.
Methods: A cross-sectional study including GPs from Denmark and Spain was conducted as part of the EU-funded project HAPPY AUDIT. A total of 2,698 patients with LRTI were included.
Results: In Denmark, 47% of the patients with LRTI were classified with a diagnosis of pneumonia compared with 11% in Spain. In Spain, fever and a positive x-ray weighted significantly more in the diagnosis of pneumonia than in Denmark. Danish GPs, however, attached more importance to dyspnoea/polypnoea and C-reactive protein levels >50mg/L. None of the other typical symptoms of pneumonia had a significant influence.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that GPs' diagnostic criteria for pneumonia differ substantially between Denmark and Spain. The high prevalence of pneumonia among Danish patients with LRTI may indicate overdiagnosis of pneumonia which, in turn, may lead to antibiotic overprescribing.