Doctors' Intuition May Be Key to Spotting Infections in Kids09/26/12
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors who have a gut
feeling about a serious infection in a child should take action on
that intuition, according to a new study.
In young children, serious infection is often hard to diagnose
and can be "like finding a needle in a haystack," according to
background information in the report, which was published online
Sept. 25 in the journal
BMJ. A doctor's intuition that something is seriously wrong
may have more diagnostic value than many symptoms and signs, the
For the study, researchers in England and Belgium looked at
nearly 3,900 children aged 16 and younger in Belgium, who were
assessed by primary care doctors in 2004. Of those children, 21
were later admitted to the hospital with a serious infection. Nine
of those 21 were not referred for further care after the initial
primary care assessment, even though the doctor confessed that they
had a feeling that something was wrong in four of the nine
A child's history of convulsions and overall appearance and
breathing were the features most strongly associated with doctors
having a feeling that there might be a serious infection. Parental
concern that a child's illness was different than normal was
another strong influence on gut feeling, the study authors noted in
a journal news release.
The investigators also found that less-experienced doctors
reported having a gut feeling more often than more senior doctors.
But the diagnostic power of a gut feeling was no better in
experienced than non-experienced doctors.
Medical teaching should make clear that an "inexplicable gut
feeling is an important diagnostic sign and a very good reason for
seeking the opinion of someone with more pediatric expertise or
performing additional testing," said study author Ann Van den
Bruel, of the University of Oxford in England, and colleagues.
A gut feeling should prompt doctors to conduct a full and
careful examination, seek advice from a more experienced doctor,
and advise parents what to do if their child's condition worsens,
the researchers concluded.
The Nemours Foundation has more about
infections in children.
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