Extensive Clinical Experience: Changing Patterns in Diagnosis and Therapy of Acromegaly over Two Decades

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Abstract

Background:

The increased morbidity and mortality of acromegaly makes early diagnosis and therapy critical. However, whether the type of medical professional who first diagnoses acromegaly, the major complaint prompting medical attention, or the management paradigms used in the setting of novel medical therapies have changed over time has not been well explored.

Objectives:

Our objective was to identify the medical professional who first suspected acromegaly and the complaint prompting the diagnosis, and if these have changed. Additional goals were to assess the interval from symptom onset to diagnosis of acromegaly and to compare treatment trends over consecutive decades.

Design:

This was a case-record retrospective study.

Setting:

The study was performed in a neuroendocrine clinical center at a tertiary care center.

Subjects:

A total of 100 patients (45 men and 55 women) with acromegaly referred from 1985-2005 was included in the study.

Results:

Acral changes (24%) and headaches (20%) were most prevalent presenting symptoms prompting diagnosis. Eighteen percent reported no symptoms of acromegaly at diagnosis. The primary care physician most often initiated the evaluation (44%). Comorbidities were more prevalent in older patients (P = 0.001). The interval between symptom onset and diagnosis decreased, compared with previous reports. Radiation therapy was used less frequently in the decade after 1994 than in the prior (16 vs. 33%; P < 0.05).

Conclusions:

The primary care doctor plays the major role in diagnosis of acromegaly. The increased use of brain magnetic resonance imaging may contribute to the many incidentally discovered cases and to the shortened time interval to diagnosis. Presumably due to the availability of new medical therapies, the use of radiation therapy has decreased.

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