August 1997

Strategies for Managing Group A Streptococcal PharyngitisA Survey of Board-Certified Pediatricians

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, Division of General Academic Pediatrics, Children's Memorial Hospital, Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Ill.; Dr Hofer is now with the Central Plains Clinic, Sioux Falls, SD.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(8):824-829. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170450074012

Objective:  To assess the management strategies and knowledge of board-certified pediatricians regarding group A β-hemolytic streptococcal (GABHS) pharyngitis.

Design:  Survey of 1000 US pediatricians in 1991, chosen randomly from the membership of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The survey included questions related to 2 clinical scenarios, respondent demographics, and knowledge of streptococcal pharyngitis.

Subjects:  Pediatricians who treated patients with pharyngitis. Of the 690 surveys that were returned, 510 pediatricians treated patients with pharyngitis and were included in the data analysis.

Data Analysis:  Data were analyzed using χ2 statistics for categorical data and the Student t test for continuous variables.

Results:  Antigen detection tests (ADTs) were used by 64% of the pediatricians; 85% used throat cultures. Strategies for diagnosing streptococcal pharyngitis were throat culture alone (38%), consider positive ADTs definitive and use throat culture when ADTs are negative (42%), ADT alone (13%), ADT and throat culture for all patients with pharyngitis (5%), and no tests for GABHS performed (2%). Thirty-one percent usually or always treated with antibiotics before test results were available. Only 29% of these "early treaters" always discontinued antibiotics when tests did not confirm the presence of group A streptococci. The drug of choice for treatment was penicillin (73%); another 26% preferred a derivative of penicillin, particularly amoxicillin. Many pediatricians altered their management when a patient had recurrent streptococcal pharyngitis. Nearly half of the respondents would use a different antibiotic than they used for routine acute streptococcal pharyngitis. They most often changed to erythromycin (25%), cefadroxil (23%), or amoxicillin-clavulanate (20%). Follow-up throat culture was obtained by 51% of pediatricians after treatment of recurrent streptococcal pharyngitis. A patient with chronic carriage of GABHS and symptoms of pharyngitis would be treated with an antibiotic by 84%; most (62%) would use a penicillin. Other choices were cephalosporins (19%), erythromycin (12%), clindamycin (3%), or rifampin plus penicillin (3%). Tonsillectomy was recommended for symptomatic carriers by 31% of respondents. Carriers without symptoms were less likely treated with antibiotics (23%) or referred for tonsillectomy (21%).

Conclusions:  Most surveyed board-certified pediatricians managed acute GABHS pharyngitis appropriately, but 15% to 20% used diagnostic or treatment strategies that are not recommended. There was lack of a consensus about the management of recurrent GABHS pharyngitis and chronic carriage of GABHS.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:824-829