Computers beat doctors at diagnosing child illnesses
A computer has proved more accurate in diagnosing severe fever in children than doctors using their clinical judgement, researchers have found.
Specialists in Australia who developed the computerised diagnostic model say it may improve early treatment in children with conditions such as pneumonia and meningitis who need an urgent administration of antibiotics.
One of the toughest tasks in medicine is distinguishing between children with ordinary viral illnesses, from which they normally recover without treatment, and those with bacterial infections which require an urgent administration of antibiotics. Family doctors have sleepless nights worrying about whether they have made the right call.
Now researchers at the Westmead Children's Hospital in Sydney, Australia, have developed a 28-item checklist which, when used with a statistical modelling technique, successfully distinguishes between the two.
They began by recording 40 clinical features in 15,000 cases of children presenting with fever at the emergency department of the hospital. The children were then followed for two weeks to discover what happened to them.
The researchers found 7.2 per cent were diagnosed with severe illnesses including urinary-tract infections and pneumonia. Six children had meningitis. The authors say that, when children are diagnosed by doctors, more than a fifth of those with severe bacterial illnesses are not prescribed antibiotics at their initial consultation and a fifth of those without a bacterial infection are overtreated with antibiotics.
When the computer model was used, the accuracy of diagnosis was equal to or better than that of the doctors. The findings are published in the British Medical Journal.
The strongest predictors of serious bacterial infection were a very unwell appearance, high temperature, chronic disease, and prolonged capillary refill time [the length of time an area of skin takes to turn pink after being pressed with a finger till it is white].
For children with pneumonia, the strongest predictors were coughing, difficulty breathing, abnormal chest sounds, rapid breathing, chest crackles and rapid heart beat.
For urinary tract infection, urinary symptoms such as pain on urinating were by far the strongest indicator, whereas for bacteraemia [the presence of bacteria in the blood which can lead to septicaemia], rapid heart beat and crying were also strong indicators.
Life & Style blogs
Other popular areas include Didsbury, Clifton in Bristol, central Cambridge and West Bridgford
Doctors are allowed to have personal beliefs, just as long as these beliefs do not interfere with th...
BBC journalist Justin Webb talks about his experiences of the advances in preventing heart attacks a...
The 10 Best Scotch Whiskies
Meet David Karp, the 26-year-old high school dropout worth $275m after selling Tumblr to Yahoo
Game on: Xbox 720 and PS4 go head to head with Microsoft set to launch console today
Virtually Stephen Fry: Star launches (possibly) the world's most self-regarding app
The 10 Best children's activity books
- 1 Tottenham to smash pay scale with £150,000-a-week contract in attempt to tie Gareth Bale to club
- 2 Austerity has hardened the nation's heart
- 3 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 4 Be more professional! GCHQ staff rapped as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange reveals messages that he says point to 'fit up'
- 5 Top A&E doctors warn: 'We cannot guarantee safe care for patients anymore'
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
£115 - £150 per day + negotiable dependant on experience : Randstad Education ...
Negotiable: Progressive Recruitment: Quality Inspector - West Midlands - 3 Mon...
£21000 - £36000 per annum: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Looking...
£120 per day: Randstad Education Luton: KS1 Teacher required to cover PPA in a...