One hundred twenty-five pediatric emergency department patients were studied prospectively to determine whether any findings on the physical examination were predictive of abnormalities seen on chest radiograph. We attempted to find possible correlations between such clinical examination findings, recorded prior to radiographic examination, and three subgroups of radiographic findings: pneumonia, any major radiographic abnormality, and any radiographic abnormality whatsoever. The best screen for pneumonia was presence of fever (temperature greater than two standard deviations above age-related norms), with a sensitivity of 94% and a negative predictive value of 97%. The sign with highest positive and negative predictive value for the presence of any radiographic abnormalities was tachypnea. A subgroup with either normal breath sounds, or findings limited to wheezing, prolonged expiration, cough and/or rhonchi on chest examination proved to be at low risk for any major chest radiographic abnormality. Patients with other chest examination findings comprised a high-risk group with a 34% risk of a major radiographic abnormality, as compared to a 7% incidence in the low-risk group. Thus, absence of fever suggests absence of pneumonia, while chest examination findings other than wheezing, cough, prolonged expiration, or rhonchi significantly increase the likelihood of pneumonia in this population. Physical examination findings can help the clinician determine the need for chest radiography in the pediatric emergency patient.
- and pulmonary signs
- chest radiograph