Primary care perceptions of otolaryngology

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery








Objective: To identify diseases of the head and neck for which primary care physicians may underappreciate the role of the otolaryngologist. Study Design: Cross-sectional analysis. Setting: With increasing subspecialization in the world of medicine, there is the potential for confusion about the scope of practice for different specialties by primary care physicians. These clinicians are often faced with patients who have disease processes in which otolaryngologist are trained but may end up referring patients to other specialists. Subjects and Methods: A brief, web-based survey was administered via e-mail to resident physicians of family medicine, pediatrics, and internal medicine programs in the United States. The survey asked responders which specialist they believed was an expert for particular clinical entities: allergies, oral cancer, restoring a youthful face, sleep apnea, thyroid surgery, and tracheostomy. Respondents could choose from a dermatologist, general surgeon, ophthalmologist, oral maxillofacial surgeon, orthopedic surgeon, otolaryngologist, and plastic surgeon. The responder was able to choose more than one specialist for each question. Results: A total of 1064 completed surveys were analyzed. The percentage of primary care residents who picked otolaryngologists as experts was 13.8 percent for allergies, 73.6 percent for oral cancer, 2.7 percent for restoring a youthful face, 32.4 percent for sleep apnea, 47.2 percent for thyroid surgery, and 72.5 percent for tracheostomy. Conclusion: This study demonstrates that many primary care residents are not aware of the scope of expertise that an otolaryngologist may offer. Increased exposure to otolaryngology during primary care residency training may increase understanding of the specialty among primary care physicians. © 2010 American Academy of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. All rights reserved.

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