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GP referrals for chronic catarrh ‘of no use’

GP referral of patients with chronic catarrh has a limited role in their management, a UK study has concluded.

The research looked at 138 patients referred to secondary care with chronic catarrh, postnasal drip or throat clearing.

Patients scored as highly on symptom questionnaires as those whose globus sensation, laryngopharyngeal reflux or chronic rhinosinusitis was the principal presenting complaint.

But rhinological investigation in the participants gave results that did not differ from the general population.

Of 63 sinus CT scans, the mean score was 2.6, well within the normal range of 0-5.  Skinprick testing was done in 45 patients and 30% reacted to one or more inhaled allergen compared with a reported 46% in the UK population, while nasendoscopy was normal in 70% of patients.

Study leader Mr Russell Cathcart, a consultant in ENT at the Carlisle Hospital concluded: ‘Catarrh presents a quandary to the clinician. The principal outcome of ENT referral for chronic catarrh is likely to be reassurance and direction towards patient self-help information.  Rhinological investigations have a very limited role in the management of chronic catarrh patients.'

Int J Clin Pract 2011, 65, 9, 985–988