The Role of Physical Examination in Establishing the Diagnosis of Pneumonia

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BackgroundCommunity-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is an important cause of acute respiratory disease in ambulatory care settings. The objective of this study was to assess the accuracy of medical history and physical examination in diagnosing CAP.MethodsPediatric residents prospectively completed a questionnaire documenting patients’ medical history and physical examination whenever a chest radiograph was ordered on patients 1 month to 16 years of age. Chest radiographs were read by a pediatric radiologist.ResultsOf 525 children participating in the study, 181 (34%) demonstrated findings of pneumonia. Thirty-four (19%) had no symptoms other than fever, and 51 (28%) had normal lung auscultation. Pediatric residents had the same interpretation in 85% of cases in which radiographic CAP was diagnosed by the radiologist, and in 76% of cases in which radiographic pneumonia was excluded by the radiologist.ConclusionsResults demonstrate the significant added value of chest radiography as an ancillary test for diagnosis of pneumonia in the emergency department setting.

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