Background: Streptococcal pharyngotonsillitis remains a common illness in children and can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
Objective: To evaluate the diagnostic and management approach of a sample of primary care physicians in the largest sick fund in Israel to streptococcal pharyngotonsillitis in children.
Methods: A questionnaire was mailed to all physicians who treat children and are employed by the General Health Services (Kupat Holim Klalit) in the Jerusalem District. The questionnaire included data on demographics, practice type and size, and availability of throat culture and rapid strep test; as well as a description of three hypothetical cases followed by questions relating to their diagnosis and treatment.
Results: Of the 188 eligible physicians, 118 (62.5%) responded, including 65 of 89 pediatricians (73%) and 53 of 99 family and general practitioners (53.5%). Fifty-six physicians (47.4%) had more than 18 years experience, and 82 (70%) completed specialization in Israel. Mean practice size was 950 patients. Fifty-three physicians (43%) worked in Kupat Holim community clinics, 25 (21%) worked independently in private clinics, and 40 (34%) did both. A total of 91 (77%) had access to laboratory facilities for daily throat culture. The time it took for the results to arrive was 48 to 72 hours. For the three clinical scenarios, 90% of the physicians accurately evaluated case A, a 1-year-old with viral pharyngotonsillitis, and 100 (85%) correctly diagnosed case C, a 7-year-old with streptococcal infection. As expected, opinions were divided on case B, a 3-year-old child with uncertain diagnosis. Accordingly, 75 (65.3%) physicians did not recommend treatment for case A, compared to 109 (92.5%) for case C. For case B, 22 (19%) said they would always treat, 43 (36%) would sometimes treat, and 35 (30%) would await the result of the throat culture. For 104 (88%) physicians the antibiotic of choice for case C was penicillin, while only 9 (7.5%) chose amoxicillin. However, the recommended dosage regimens varied from 250 to 500 mg per dose, and from two to four doses daily. For case C, 110 physicians (93%) chose a 10 day duration of treatment.
Conclusions: The primary care physicians in the sample (pediatricians, general practitioners and family physicians) accurately diagnosed viral and streptococcal pharyngotonsillitis. However, there was a lack of uniformity regarding its management in general, and the dosage regimen for penicillin in particular.