Die Diagnose der akuten Bronchitis in der Hausarztpraxis - Ein unscharfes Konzept mit Folgen? Eine qualitative Studie.

Document Type
Doctoral Thesis
Granting Institution
Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Medizinische Fakultät
Issue Date
Schubert, Nadine

Background: Acute bronchitis is one of the most frequent diagnoses in primary care. Scientifically, it is conceptualized as a viral infection. Still, general practitioners (GPs) often prescribe antibiotics for acute bronchitis. The explanation for this discrepancy may lie in a different conceptualization of acute bronchitis. Therefore, we wanted to know, how GPs conceptualize acute bronchitis, and how they differentiate it from common cold and pneumonia. Furthermore, we tried to find out the GPs’ reasons for prescribing antibiotics in those cases. Methods: To answer our study questions, we conducted a qualitative study with GPs in Bavaria, Germany, by using semi-structured guided interviews. The analysis of the data was conducted using the documentary method according to Ralf Bohnsack. The transcripts were subdivided into categories. Analyzing each part by reflective interpretation, first manually, secondly with the help of RQDA, we extracted the most representative citations and main messages from the interviews. Results: The term acute bronchitis seems to be applied when there is neither certainty of the diagnosis common cold, nor of pneumonia. It seems it bridges the gap of uncertainty between supposedly harmless clinical pictures (common cold/viral), to the more serious ones (pneumonia/bacterial). The conceptual transitions between common cold and acute bronchitis on the one side, and acute bronchitis and pneumonia on the other are fluid. The diagnosis acute bronchitis cannot solve the problem of uncertainty but seems to be a label to overcome it by offering a way to include different factors such as severity of symptoms, presumed signs of bacterial secondary infection, comorbidities, and presumed expectations of patients. It seems to solve the pathophysiologic riddle of bacterial or viral and of decision making in prescribing antibiotics. Conclusion: Acute bronchitis as an "intermediate category" proved difficult to define for the GPs. Applying this diagnosis leaves GPs in abeyance of prescribing an antibiotic or not. As a consequence of this uncertainty in pathophysiologic reasoning (viral or bacterial) other clinical and social factors tip the balance towards antibiotic prescribing. Teaching physicians to better think in probabilities of outcomes instead of pathophysiologic reasoning and to deal with uncertainty might help reducing antibiotic overprescribing.

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