Top 20 research studies of 2017 for primary care physicians

Mark H. Ebell, Roland Grad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Based on systematic surveillance of more than 110 medical journals, 247 studies met criteria as POEMs (patient-oriented evidence that matters) in 2017. Members of the Canadian Medical Association identified 20 of these POEMs as most relevant to practice. This article reviews the clinical questions and bottom-line answers from these studies. Blood pressure should be measured after a period of rest, using a bare arm, and orthostatic blood pressure is more predictive when measured after one minute of standing rather than three minutes. Intensive blood pressure lowering results in cardiovascular benefits but also renal harms in high-risk patients with an average age of 68 years. The initiation of a statin for primary prevention does not reduce cardiovascular events in adults 65 years or older. Sterile gloves do not reduce the risk of infection for common outpatient skin procedures, and the preferred approach to managing onychomycosis is empiric oral terbinafine. Routine home glucose monitoring is not needed in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, and trying to achieve an A1C target level of 6.0% rather than 7.0% to 7.9% does not improve outcomes and may be harmful. Fasting blood glucose and A1C levels have limited accuracy for identifying glucose intolerance, and patients 65 years and older with thyroid-stimulating hormone levels between 4.6 and 10.0 mIU per mL should be rechecked before considering treatment. Gabapentin and pregabalin are not effective for acute or chronic low back pain, even in patients with sciatica. Physical therapy does not provide any additional benefit over usual care in patients with acute ankle sprain, and corticosteroid injections for knee osteoarthritis are ineffective and may damage cartilage. A two-question screening test can rule out depression in older adults; a large U.S. trial continued to find no benefit to prostate cancer screening; and clinicians need to be thoughtful about how they discuss recommendations to stop screening for cancer in older patients. Finally, ibuprofen, naproxen, and celecoxib have similar risks of adverse events, and continuous positive airway pressure in patients with obstructive sleep apnea does not reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-588
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican family physician
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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