Diagnostic accuracy of FEVER-Pain and Centor criteria for bacterial throat infection in adults with sore throat: a secondary analysis of a randomised controlled trial

Anna Seeley*, Thomas R Fanshawe, Merryn Voysey, Alastair D Hay, Michael Moore, Gail Hayward

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Abstract

Background Sore throat is a common and self-limiting condition. There remains ambiguity in stratifying patients to immediate, delayed, or no antibiotic prescriptions. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends two clinical prediction rules (CPRs), FeverPAIN and Centor, to guide decision making.

Aim To describe the diagnostic accuracy of CPRs in identifying streptococcal throat infections.

Design & setting Adults presenting to UK primary care with sore throat, who did not require immediate antibiotics.

Method As part of the Treatment Options without Antibiotics for Sore Throat (TOAST) trial, 565 participants, aged ≥18 years, were recruited on day of presentation to general practice. Physicians could opt to give delayed prescriptions. CPR scores were not part of the trial protocol but were calculated post hoc from baseline assessments. Diagnostic accuracy was calculated by comparing scores with throat swab cultures.

Results It was found that 81/502 (16.1%) patients had group A, C, or G streptococcus cultured on throat swab. Overall diagnostic accuracy of both CPRs was poor: area under receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curve 0.62 for Centor; and 0.59 for FeverPAIN. Post-test probability of a positive or negative test was 27.3% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 6.0% to 61.0%) and 84.1% (95% CI = 80.6% to 87.2%) for FeverPAIN ≥4; versus 25.7% (95% CI = 16.2% to 37.2%) and 85.5% (95% CI = 81.8% to 88.7%) for Centor ≥3. Higher CPR scores were associated with increased delayed antibiotic prescriptions (χ2 = 8.42, P = 0.004 for FeverPAIN ≥4; χ2 = 32.0, P<0.001 for Centor ≥3).
Conclusion In those who do not require immediate antibiotics in primary care, neither CPR provides a reliable way of diagnosing streptococcal throat infection. However, clinicians were more likely to give delayed prescriptions to those with higher scores.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice Open
Volume5
Issue number6
Early online date24 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Nov 2021

Keywords

  • diagnosis
  • decision making
  • primary healthcare

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