Study: can pneumonia be reliably diagnosed without x-rays?

Tue Jan 29, 2013 6:24am IST

Chihn Ha, eight year old, gets an influenza vaccine injection from nurse Nho Nguyen (R) during a flu shot clinic at Dorchester House, a health care clinic, in Boston, Massachusetts January 12, 2013. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/Files

Chihn Ha, eight year old, gets an influenza vaccine injection from nurse Nho Nguyen (R) during a flu shot clinic at Dorchester House, a health care clinic, in Boston, Massachusetts January 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder/Files

Related Topics

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, adjusts her flower garlands as she campaigns for her mother during an election meeting at Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

Election 2014

More than 814 million people — a number larger than the population of Europe — are eligible to vote in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.  Full Coverage 

REUTERS - Doctors may miss some cases of pneumonia if they rely solely on their patient's medical history and symptoms without also taking x-rays, according to a European study.

Dutch researchers, who published their findings in the European Respiratory Journal, found that of 140 patients who had their pneumonia diagnosed by x-ray, doctors initially thought only 41 of them had the severe lung infection.

"That's worse than flipping a coin," said Richard Watkins, who was not involved in the study but has researched how doctors diagnose pneumonia. "I think that's an argument for doing chest x-rays."

People with pneumonia may have a cough, fever, nausea, vomiting, chills or chest pain. Under some circumstances, the infection can put patients into an intensive care unit and even turn fatal.

In 2009, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that about 1.1 million Americans were hospitalized with pneumonia, and about 50,000 died of it.

According to researchers led by Saskia van Vugt from the University Medical Center in Utrecht, most doctors use their best judgment in deciding who has pneumonia, because it's not possible to give everyone an x-ray to check for signs of the infection.

Little was known, however, about how accurate doctors were with their diagnoses, the researchers wrote.

For the study, van Vugt and her colleagues used information collected between October 2007 and April 2010 on 2,810 adult patients of doctors in 12 European countries.

All of the patients came to the doctor with a cough, but only 72 were initially diagnosed with pneumonia. All of the patients were then given a chest x-ray to see how accurate the doctors' diagnoses were.

Of those 72 initial diagnoses, the x-rays showed that 31 did not have pneumonia. In the rest of the group, the researchers found the doctors missed 99 cases.

Overall, the doctors correctly diagnosed fewer than a third of pneumonia cases.

While catching only 29 percent of pneumonia cases seems alarming, Watkins said there may be differences between how doctors Europe and in the United States diagnose the illness. It's common, for example, to have U.S. doctors order x-rays if they suspect pneumonia, he said.

In fact, joint guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of American and American Thoracic Society call for an x-ray to diagnose pneumonia. SOURCE: bit.ly/WInB55 (Reporting from New York by Andrew Seaman at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Ukraine

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Ferry Tragedy

Ferry Tragedy

Boy and girl on Korean ferry tied life jackets together before they drowned.  Full Article 

Lost Plane Mystery

Lost Plane Mystery

Australia rules out link between debris and Malaysian plane.  Full Article 

Obama's Japan Visit

Obama's Japan Visit

Obama reaffirms commitment to Japan on tour of Asia allies.  Full Article 

Solar Dispute

Solar Dispute

Green groups urge U.S. to drop solar trade case against India.  Full Article 

Reconciliation Deal

Reconciliation Deal

Hamas, Abbas's PLO announce reconciliation agreement.  Full Article 

Fighting Pollution

Fighting Pollution

China to impose tougher penalties on polluters in new environmental law.  Full Article 

Death From Fall

Death From Fall

Brother-in-law of Britain's Prince Charles dies in New York.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage