BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to identify factors on which European general practitioners (GPs) base their decisions to admit to hospital patients with lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI). METHODS: A survey was carried out from December 1993 to January 1994 to identify factors that affect GPs' decisions to admit to hospital patients with LRTI by collecting data on 2056 patients from 605 GPs in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK. RESULTS: Only 93 (4.5%) of the patients included in the study were admitted to hospital. Univariate analysis showed that age > 60 years, institutionalisation of the patient, concomitant diseases, cardiac insufficiency, asthma, a diagnosis of pneumonia, and clinical signs such as chest pain, cyanosis, tachypnoea and hypotension significantly (odds ratio (OR) > 2.0, p < 0.002) influenced the decision to admit to hospital. No influence could be shown for sex, smoking habits, history of bronchiectasis or chronic bronchitis, the presence of fever, chills, myalgia, cough or purulent sputum, and the diagnoses of acute bronchitis, influenza or exacerbation of chronic bronchitis. In the multivariate analysis only the presence of chest pain (OR 2.3, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.5 to 3.5), cyanosis (OR 4.1, 95% CI 2.4 to 7.1), dyspnoea (OR 4.9, 95% CI 3.1 to 7.9), and hypotension (OR 2.9, 95% CI 1.6 to 5.2), as well as a diagnosis of pneumonia (OR 6.6, 95% CI 4.3 to 10) (all p < 0.00001) remained as factors that significantly affected the decision to admit to hospital. CONCLUSIONS: Clinical signs of severe infection and a diagnosis of pneumonia are the main factors that induce GPs to admit patients with LRTI to hospital in Europe.
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