Practice Alert

8 USPSTF recommendations FPs need to know about

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Treat high blood pressure only if measurements taken outside of the office confirm an initial high BP reading • Screen blood-glucose levels in overweight/obese individuals 40 to 70 years old • and more.


From The Journal of Family Practice | 2016;65(5):338-341.


The US Preventive Services Task Force made 8 recommendations in 2015 that family physicians should implement in their practices (TABLE 11). The conditions addressed are high blood pressure, abnormal blood glucose, breast cancer, depression, and tobacco use. The Task Force also issued 13 “I” statements (TABLE 21) reflecting insufficient evidence to recommend for or against a particular intervention—once again underscoring the inadequate evidence base for many commonly-accepted practices aimed at prevention. Four such interventions were targeted toward children.

High blood pressure: Verify before starting treatment

The Task Force continues to give strong backing to the practice of screening for high blood pressure (HBP) and treating those with HBP to prevent cardiovascular and renal disease. The new recommendation, however, recognizes there is significant over-diagnosis of this condition and advises that, before starting treatment, HBP found with office measurement be confirmed with either ambulatory blood pressure monitoring or home blood pressure monitoring. This topic was covered in more depth in a recent Practice Alert.2

Since cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and much of this mortality is preventable, the Task Force also has recommendations in place for screening and treatment of other risks for cardiovascular disease, including obesity, hyperlipidemia, elevated blood glucose (discussed below), and tobacco use.1

Blood glucose: Focus is now on overweight/obese individuals

The Task Force’s new recommendation for diabetes screening differs from the one made in 2008, which recommended screening for type 2 diabetes (T2DM) only in adults with hypertension. The Task Force now recommends screening for abnormal blood glucose in all obese and overweight adults between the ages of 40 and 70. The Task Force analysis is detailed3 and will be the subject of the next Practice Alert, with only the highlights described here.

The recommendation is limited to overweight and obese adults because they are most likely to have abnormal blood glucose and to benefit from interventions. Screening can be done by measuring fasting blood glucose levels, performing a glucose tolerance test, or measuring glycated hemoglobin levels. The optimal screening frequency is unknown but suggested to be every 3 years. Refer patients with abnormal screen results to an intensive behavioral counseling program that promotes healthy eating and physical activity. Those with T2DM should also receive these services and consider pharmacotherapy.

The Task Force examined the potential of electronic nicotine delivery systems for smoking cessation and concluded that the evidence was insufficient to make a recommendation.

Breast cancer: Mammography advice is age dependent

The Task Force breast cancer screening recommendations, first proposed in 2015 and finalized in early 2016, essentially reaffirm those made in 2009. Women ages 50 through 74 should be screened with mammography every 2 years, and individuals younger than age 50 should make a decision to receive screening—or not—based on the known benefits and risks of mammography at their age and their personal risks and preferences.

Insufficient evidence exists to make recommendations regarding mammography for women ages 75 and up, the use of digital breast tomosynthesis as a primary screening tool, and the use of any modality to augment screening in women with dense breasts who have normal mammogram results. Details of these recommendations were described in a Practice Alert last year.4

Depression: Use screening tools designed for specific patients

The 2015 updates on screening for depression essentially reconfirm the Task Force’s previous findings and recommendations on this topic. Screening for depression is recommended for all adults, including pregnant and postpartum women,5 and adolescents starting at age 12.6 Once again, the evidence is insufficient to make a recommendation on screening for depression in children younger than age 12.

Both recommendations emphasize the importance of follow-up steps after screening to ensure accurate diagnosis, adequate treatment, and appropriate follow-up. Treatment for adults and adolescents can include pharmacotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and/or psychosocial counseling. However, pharmacotherapy is not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women because of potential harms to the fetus and newborn.

The Task Force notes that screening all young children for autism spectrum disorder is problematic because of possible over-diagnosis and unclear benefits of early intervention.

The Task Force deems a number of screening tools acceptable. For adolescents, it suggests the Patient Health Questionnaire for Adolescents and the primary care version of the Beck Depression Inventory.6 For adults, the Task Force suggests the Patient Health Questionnaire, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scales, the Geriatric Depression Scale for older adults, and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale for postpartum and pregnant women.5

There is no known optimal frequency of screening or evidence on the value of repeated screening. The Task Force suggests one initial screen with repeated screening based on individual characteristics.

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