Overdiagnosis occurs when a true abnormality is discovered, but detection of that abnormality does not benefit the patient. It should be distinguished from misdiagnosis, in which the diagnosis is inaccurate, and it is not synonymous with overtreatment or overuse, in which excess medication or procedures are provided to patients for both correct and incorrect diagnoses. Overdiagnosis for adult conditions has gained a great deal of recognition over the last few years, led by realizations that certain screening initiatives, such as those for breast and prostate cancer, may be harming the very people they were designed to protect. In the fall of 2014, the second international Preventing Overdiagnosis Conference will be held, and the British Medical Journal will produce an overdiagnosis-themed journal issue. However, overdiagnosis in children has been less well described. This special article seeks to raise awareness of the possibility of overdiagnosis in pediatrics, suggesting that overdiagnosis may affect commonly diagnosed conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, bacteremia, food allergy, hyperbilirubinemia, obstructive sleep apnea, and urinary tract infection. Through these and other examples, we discuss why overdiagnosis occurs and how it may be harming children. Additionally, we consider research and education strategies, with the goal to better elucidate pediatric overdiagnosis and mitigate its influence.
Keywords: medical education; public health.
Copyright © 2014 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.