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J Fam Pract. 1984 Jun;18(6):857-63.

A five-year experience with throat cultures.


This study addresses the usefulness of the throat culture in a family practice residency setting and explores the following questions: (1) Do faculty physicians clinically identify streptococcal pharyngitis better than residents? (2) With time, will residents and faculty physicians improve in their diagnostic accuracy? (3) Should the throat culture be used always, selectively, or never? A total of 3,982 throat cultures were obtained over a five-year study period with 16 percent positive for beta-hemolytic streptococci. The results were compared with the physician's clinical diagnosis of either "nonstreptococcal" (category A) or "streptococcal" (category B). Within category A, 363 of 3,023 patients had positive cultures (12 percent clinical diagnostic error rate). Within category B, 665 of 959 patients had negative cultures (69 percent clinical diagnostic error rate). Faculty were significantly better than residents in diagnosing streptococcal pharyngitis, but not in diagnosing nonstreptococcal sore throats. Neither faculty nor residents improved their diagnostic accuracy over time. Regarding age-specific recommendations, the findings support utilizing a throat culture in all children aged 2 to 15 years with sore throat, but in adults only when the physician suspects streptococcal pharyngitis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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