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Patient expectations of acute bronchitis not consistent with the best evidence
Date:1/14/2013

Athens, Ga. New research from the University of Georgia exposes a large discrepancy in the length of time patients expect an acute cough illness, also called acute bronchitis, to last and the reality of the illness. This mismatch may be a factor in the over-prescription of antibiotics.

Examining the gap in patient expectations and the actual length of time the body takes to rid itself of a chest cold, Dr. Mark Ebell, associate professor of epidemiology in the UGA College of Public Health, recently published an article in the Annals of Family Medicine. His results show that most patients expect to cough for seven to nine days. In reality, a bronchial illness takes closer to 18 days on average to run its course.

Ebell performed a meta-analysis by looking at 19 observational studies that each included between 23 and 1,230 patients and took place in the U.S., Europe, Russia and Kenya. He used the placebo or untreated control groups to determine that acute cough illness actually lasts an average of 17.8 days.

To gauge patient expectations, questions about the length of time a person thinks they should suffer with a cough were added to the bi-annual Georgia Poll, a random digit dialing survey of 500 Georgia residents from the UGA Survey Research Center. The results found people expected an illness to last only seven to nine days.

Ebell first realized disconnect in expectations and realities while working as a family practice physician. "There is a mismatch in what people believe and reality," Ebell said. "If someone gets acute bronchitis and isn't better after four to five days, they may think they need to see a doctor and get an antibiotic. And when the first one doesn't work, they come back four or five days later for another."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acute cough illness accounts for two to three percent of visits to outpatient physicians. Over half of these patient
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Contact: Mark Ebell
ebell@uga.edu
706-542-1585
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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