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Diagnostic Value of Tachypnoea in Pneumonia Defined Radiologically


Diagnostic Value of Tachypnoea in Pneumonia Defined Radiologically

M Palafox et al. Arch Dis Child.


Objective: To evaluate whether sensitivity and specificity of tachypnoea for the diagnosis of pneumonia change with age, nutritional status, or duration of disease.

Methods: Diagnostic testing of 110 children with acute respiratory infection, 51 of whom presented with tachypnoea. The gold standard was a chest roentgenogram. Thirty five children had a radiological image of pneumonia; 75 were diagnosed as not having pneumonia. Sensitivity, specificity, and percentage of correct classification of tachypnoea, by itself or in combination with other clinical signs for all children, by age groups, nutritional status, and disease duration were calculated.

Results: Tachypnoea as the sole clinical sign showed the highest sensitivity (74%) and a specificity of 67%; 69% of cases were classified correctly. Sensitivity was reduced when other clinical signs were combined with tachypnoea, and there was no significant increase in correct classification, although specificity increased to 84%. In children with a disease duration of less than three days, tachypnoea had a lower sensitivity and specificity (55% and 64%, respectively), and a lower percentage of correct classification (62%). In children with low weight for age (< 1 Z-score), tachypnoea had a sensitivity of 83%, a specificity of 48%, and 60% correct classification. Sensitivity and specificity did not vary with age groups.

Conclusions: Tachypnoea used as the only clinical sign is useful for identifying pneumonia in children, with no significant variations for age. In children with low weight for age, tachypnoea had higher sensitivity, but lower specificity. However, during the first three days of disease, the sensitivity, specificity, and percentage of correct classification were significantly lower.

Comment in

  • ACP J Club. 2000 Sep-Oct;133(2):68

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