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The Accuracy of Adult Patients' Reports of Their Parents' Medical Histories FREE

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The summary below is from the full report titled “Accuracy of Offspring Reports of Parental Cardiovascular Disease History: The Framingham Offspring Study.” It is in the 16 March 2004 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 140, pages 434-440). The authors are J.M. Murabito, B.-H. Nam, R.B. D'Agostino Sr., D.M. Lloyd-Jones, C.J. O'Donnell, and P.W.F. Wilson.

Ann Intern Med. 2004;140(6):I-58. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-140-6-200403160-00004
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

When doctors estimate a patient's risk for heart disease, one of the factors they consider is whether the patient's parents had heart disease. This is one of the reasons that doctors routinely ask patients about family medical history. However, we do not know very much about the accuracy of patients' reports of family medical history.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

To see how accurately people report their parents' medical histories related to heart disease.

Who was studied?

791 men and 837 women whose mothers and fathers had both participated in the Framingham Heart Study, which is a study of heart disease that began in 1948 and that has included many residents of Framingham, Massachusetts.

How was the study done?

The researchers asked people in the study about their own health. They also asked whether their mothers or their fathers ever had high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes mellitus, heart attack before age 55 years, or stroke before age 65 years or died of heart disease. The researchers checked the parents' medical records to see whether the study participants' reports of their parents' medical histories were accurate.

What did the researchers find?

Study participants were accurate when they reported that a parent had high blood pressure, high cholesterol level, or diabetes. Reports that a parent did not have diabetes, heart attack before age 55 years, or stroke before age 65 years were also accurate. However, participants were often wrong when they reported that a parent did not have high blood pressure or a high cholesterol level. In addition, reports that a parent had had a heart attack before age 55 years or a stroke before age 65 years were often wrong.

What were the limitations of the study?

It is possible that the results of this study of people in the Framingham Heart Study would not apply to other groups of people who were less aware of issues related to heart disease.

What are the implications of the study?

Doctors should be aware that patient reports of parents' medical history of heart disease may be inaccurate, especially when patients report that a parent had heart attack or stroke at an early age or that a parent did not have high blood pressure or a high cholesterol level.





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