Objectives: To describe the practice patterns among primary care physicians' (PCPs) managing patients with symptoms suggestive of interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome (IC/PBS). Methods: We developed a clinical vignette describing a woman with typical IC/PBS symptoms to elicit questions about etiology, management strategies, and familiarity with this syndrome. We mailed the questionnaire to 556 PCPs, including academicians and community physicians, in Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Results: We received 290 completed questionnaires (response rate, 52%). Nineteen percent of respondents reported they had "never" seen a patient like the one described in the vignette. Two-thirds of respondents correctly identified the hallmark symptom of IC/PBS (bladder pain/pressure). Regarding etiology, 90% correctly indicated that IC/PBS was a noninfectious disease, 76% correctly reported that it was not caused by a sexually transmitted infection, and 61% correctly indicated that it was not caused by a psychiatric illness. Common treatments included antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents. Referrals were often made to a specialist. Conclusions: Although most PCPs indicate familiarity with IC/PBS, they manage the condition infrequently. They also appear to have significant knowledge deficits about the clinical characteristics of IC/PBS, and they indicate variable practice patterns in the diagnosis and treatment of the condition. Educational efforts directed at PCPs will likely improve the care of patients with IC/PBS.
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