Physicians Often Unaware that Patients Use Alternative Care

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Physicians Often Unaware that Patients Use Alternative CareAccording to new research, many cardiology patients make use of complementary medicines and therapies (CAM treatments). However, they rarely share this information with their doctor.

The research was based on a survey of 116 cardiology patients at a Scotland outpatient clinic undertaken by Jenny Jones, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Stirling. Sixty patients (52%) reported using at least one complementary therapy, such as chiropractic treatments, massage, acupuncture, or reflexology. However, records suggested that few of these patients had told doctors about the complementary treatments they had undergone. “We found that very few people had volunteered this clinically important information in consultations,”wrote study co-author Stephen Leslie, MBChB, PhD.

“In light of the potential for adverse interactions we believe that clinicians should routinely ask all their patients whether they use any form” of complementary therapy, the researchers wrote in a statement. For example, they say, popular herbal remedies like ginseng, St. John’s wort, and ginkgo biloba can affect bleeding and clotting, particularly in patients who also take warfarin.

This survey adds to a growing body of research concerning CAM utilization rates. Study results published two months ago found widespread use of CAM among children treated at two Canadian hospitals. In that study, Dr. Sunita Vohra of the University of Alberta and colleagues reminded doctors “to inquire about CAM use during routine history taking at every patient visit.”

Doing so could improve chiropractor-physician collaboration, thereby improving the quality of care patients receive.


Leslie SJ, et al. Survey of cardiology outpatients use of and attitudes towards alternative and complementary therapies in the NHS. EuroHeartCare 2013; Abstract 90147.

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