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Open Access Research article

General practitioner practices in requesting laboratory tests for patients with gastroenteritis in the Netherlands, 2001–2002

Winette E van den Brandhof1, Aad IM Bartelds2, Marion PG Koopmans3 and Yvonne THP van Duynhoven1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands

2 Netherlands Institute for Health Services Researches (NIVEL), Utrecht, The Netherlands

3 Department of virology, National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Bilthoven, The Netherlands

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BMC Family Practice 2006, 7:56  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-7-56

Published: 2 October 2006



The objective of this study was to estimate the (selective) proportion of patients consulting their GP for an episode of gastroenteritis for whom laboratory tests were requested. In addition adherence of GPs to the guidelines for diagnostic test regime was ascertained.


Data were collected from a GP network in the Netherlands. Information was also collected on the reason for requesting the test, test specifications, and test results.


For 12% of the GP patients with gastroenteritis, a stool sample was requested and tested for enteric pathogens. In most patients, the duration, followed by severity of complaints or a visit to a specific, high-risk country were reported as reasons to request laboratory diagnostics. Tests were requested most often in summer months and in February. Campylobacter (requested for 87% of the tests), Salmonella (84%), Shigella (78%) and Yersinia (56%) were most frequently included in the stool tests. Campylobacter was detected most often in patients.


Test requests did not always comply with existing knowledge of the etiology of gastroenteritis in GP patients and were not always consistent with the Dutch GP guidelines. Therefore, the data of this study can be used to develop educational approaches for GP's as well as for revision of the guidelines.