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July 1996

Tuberculosis Testing: Physician Attitudes and Practice

Author Affiliations

From the Department of General Pediatrics and the Children's Research Institute, Children's National Medical Center (Drs Cheng, Ottolini, and Rosenquist and Mss Miller and Brasseux), and the Department of Pediatrics, George Washington University (Drs Cheng, Ottolini, and Rosenquist), Washington, DC.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150(7):682-685. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1996.02170320028004

Objective:  To assess physician agreement with and adoption of American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) recommendations on tuberculosis screening in children.

Design and Participants:  Survey of a random sample of 1272 community pediatricians and family physicians (excluding academic institutions) in 4 mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia.

Results:  The response rate was 66%. Seventy-five percent of the respondents were aware of the 1994 AAP screening recommendations. Most (64%) test children at low risk periodically (at age 1 year, preschool age, and adolescent age), and 81% test children at high risk annually. Eighty-one percent of the respondents estimated that 10% or less of their patients were at high risk for tuberculosis. Most use patient-specific factors, geographic or community prevalence, or both as principal criteria to determine risk. Eighty-seven percent used multiple-puncture tests in 1993; this declined to 55% in 1994. Multiple-puncture tests are still used exclusively by 29% of the respondents. Ninety-one percent of those using multiple-puncture tests and 19% of those using the Mantoux test allow parents to read the test reaction. Forty-six percent of the respondents believed that if a return visit was required for reading the test reaction, 50% or less of their patients would return. Only 22% of the respondents adhere to the 1994 AAP recommendations regarding frequency, testing method, and reading the test reaction. Factors associated with adherence to AAP recommendations included physician and practice characteristics and knowledge of AAP recommendations.

Conclusions:  Physician practice of tuberculosis testing varies widely; most do not adhere to the 1994 AAP recommendations. Most physicians vary the frequency and testing method based on a patient's risk status. The use of multiple-puncture tests has declined, although they are still widely used. Accurate reading of screening tests remains a major concern.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150:682-685