BACKGROUND: GPs can use the C-reactive protein (CRP) point-of-care test (POCT) to assist when deciding whether to prescribe antibiotics for patients with acute respiratory tract infections (RTIs).
AIM: To estimate the CRP cut-off levels that Danish GPs use to guide antibiotic prescribing for patients presenting with different signs and symptoms of RTIs.
DESIGN & SETTING: A cross-sectional study conducted in general practice in Denmark.
METHOD: During the winters of 2017 and 2018, 143 GPs and their staff registered consecutive patients with symptoms of an RTI according to the Audit Project Odense (APO) method. CRP cut-offs were estimated as the lowest level at which half of the patients were prescribed an antibiotic.
RESULTS: In total, 7813 patients were diagnosed with an RTI, of whom 4617 (59%) had a CRP test performed. At least 25% of the patients were prescribed an antibiotic when the CRP level was >20 mg/L, at least 50% when CRP was >40 mg/L, and at least 75% when CRP was >50 mg/L. Lower thresholds were identified for patients aged ≥65 years and those presenting with a fever, poor general appearance, dyspnoea, abnormal lung auscultation, or ear/facial pain, and if the duration of symptoms was either short (≤1 day) or long (>14 days).
CONCLUSION: More than half of patients presenting to Danish general practice with symptoms of an RTI have a CRP test performed. At CRP levels >40 mg/L, the majority of patients have an antibiotic prescribed.