Diabetic retinopathy: examination practices and referral patterns of general practitioners

Med J Aust. 1996 Mar 18;164(6):341-4. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.1996.tb122049.x.


Objective: To investigate general practitioners' (GPs') examination and referral practices for diabetic retinopathy.

Methods: A questionnaire survey of a random stratified sample of 500 Victorian GPs.

Results: The response rate was 88%. 53% of GPs examined none or less than half of their patients with diabetes for diabetic retinopathy. Those who did examine for retinopathy rarely performed funduscopy through a dilated pupil and 65% reported that they never did. Only 37% had dilating drops in their surgery. Only 45% often or always tested visual acuity. 88% often or always referred patients at the recommended frequency to an ophthalmologist.

Conclusions: Although most GPs do not perform dilated fundus examinations, they report referring their patients with diabetes for assessment by an ophthalmologist at an early stage to prevent vision loss. Referral chain breakdown may explain the discrepancy between GPs' reported referral rates and the lower rates of ophthalmic examination reported in the Melbourne Visual Impairment Project.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / diagnosis*
  • Family Practice*
  • Humans
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Victoria