General Practitioners' Perceptions of Their Ability to Identify and Refer Patients with Suspected Axial Spondyloarthritis: a Qualitative Study

M. van Onna*, S. Gorter, A. van Meerendonk, A. van Tubergen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective. To explore the knowledge, beliefs, and experiences of general practitioners (GP) about inflammatory back pain (IBP) and axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) and potential barriers for referral of patients suspected of having axSpA. Methods. A qualitative study involving semistructured interviews with GP was conducted. Transcripts of the interviews were independently read and annotated by 2 readers. Illustrative themes were identified and a coding system to categorize the data was developed. Results. Ten GP (all men; mean age 49 yrs) were interviewed. All could adequately describe "classic" ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and mentioned chronic back pain and/or stiffness as key features. All GP thought that AS is almost exclusively diagnosed in men. Six GP knew that there is a difference between mechanical back pain and IBP, but could recall only a limited number of variables indicative of IBP, such as awakening night pain (4 GP), insidious onset of back pain (1 GP), improvement with movement (1 GP), and (morning) stiffness (2 GP). Two GP mentioned peripheral arthritis as other SpA features, none mentioned dactylitis or enthesitis. GP awareness of associated extraarticular manifestations was low. Most GP expressed that (practical) referral measures would be useful. Conclusion. GP are aware of "classic", but longterm features of axSpA. Knowledge about the disease spectrum and early detection is, however, limited. Addressing these issues in training programs may improve recognition of axSpA in primary care. This may ultimately contribute to earlier referral, diagnosis, and initiation of effective treatment in patients with axSpA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)897-901
JournalJournal of Rheumatology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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