Many patients presenting in general practice will, at some time, complain of tiredness and lack of energy. Investigations to discover the cause are often conducted and will usually include blood tests such as a full blood count to see if anaemia is to blame. Patients may assume that all anaemia is iron deficiency anaemia but there are, of course, different types of anaemia. Interpreting investigations correctly and acting on them appropriately can ensure that the patient gets the right diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Heart murmurs – abnormal sounds heard through the stethoscope – are caused by turbulent blood flow in the heart or blood vessels. They can be associated with a range of conditions, including valve defects, high blood pressure and heart failure in adults and congenital heart defects in children. Patients should be investigated carefully to identify the underlying cause, which will determine treatment and prognosis. Some pathological murmurs require no treatment. If they are severe, however, surgery may be needed to correct the causative defect. Drug treatments may be indicated for some murmurs.
A 4-year observational study reveals significant results about the effectiveness of the NHS Health Check. The study reviewed data from 214,295 people in England who attended an NHS Health Check and compared these findings against 1.4 million people who had not yet been offered or taken up their checks.
More and more of our cardiac patients are having scans to check what is going on in their hearts. There were about 1,200 single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans per million population in the UK in 2000, according to the British Nuclear Cardiology Society (BNCS) survey. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended this should increase to about 4,000 scans per million population per year, based on current revascularisation and coronary angiogram rates. This article explains what is involved in a myocardial perfusion scan (MPS), giving you the information to answer your patients' questions.
Palpitations are a common presentation in general practice and a frequent reason for cardiology referrals. They generally cause considerable distress and anxiety to the patient and can also evoke feelings of uncertainty in the health professional consulted, but the good news is that palpitations are often benign. The skill lies in identifying patients with a significant heart rhythm abnormality that could be helped by treatment and those at risk of adverse outcome. This can be achieved by taking a careful history and simple investigations.
The prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is being moved up a gear with the ambitious and wide-reaching NHS Health Check programme. The agenda for this programme has been clearly laid out for us in the Putting Prevention First best practice guidance that was published in April 2009. The "Cog Man" on the cover highlights the close links between the heart, brain, kidneys and diabetes, explaining the comprehensive nature of vascular risk assessment, and this image is going to be seen regularly on national leaflets and posters promoting the programme. This article provides a practical guideline for the primary care team on implementing the Health Check programme, setting out who we should be checking, what we should be checking and how we should act on what we find.