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Fam Pract. 2015 Apr;32(2):205-10. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmv004. Epub 2015 Feb 24.

Direct-access to abdominal ultrasonic investigation from general practice—the role in earlier cancer diagnosis.

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Research Unit for General Practice, Research Centre for Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care (CaP) and Section of General Medical Practice, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus and
Vejle Regional Hospital, Lillebaelt Hospital, Vejle, Region of Southern Denmark, Denmark.
Research Unit for General Practice, Research Centre for Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care (CaP) and.



Abdominal ultrasound (US) is a safe and low-cost diagnostic tool for various abdominal symptoms. Direct-access to US from general practice has been suggested as a feasible option to promote earlier cancer diagnosis because abdominal cancer often presents with non-specific and vague symptoms, and the exact location may be difficult to identify on the basis of symptoms alone.


To describe patterns of use and cancer prevalence in referred patients when providing Danish GPs with direct-access to hospital-based US.


In an observational study, GPs were given the opportunity to either refer patients directly to US or through a waiting-list at Vejle Regional Hospital in Denmark; 701 patients were included between 1 August 2009 and 31 January 2010. Data were retrieved from the local Radiology Information System, GP referrals and the Danish Cancer Registry.


GPs referred 60% of all patients to direct-access US. Cancer was diagnosed in 19 (2.7%) of the referred patients within 6 months after the US investigation. US gave rise to the suspicion of cancer in 11 of these patients (57.9%); 10 of these had been referred to direct-access US. At least one non-malignant diagnosis resulted from US in 59.5% of the cases, while 37.8% of the cases had no final diagnosis.


The findings in this study might indicate that GPs refer patients assessed to have a higher risk of cancer through direct-access US. The finding was statistically non-significant, and further research is required to confirm this result.


Denmark; diagnosis; diagnostic imaging; general practice; neoplasms; ultrasonography.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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