Background: Clinicians are frequently faced with the differential diagnosis between Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), bacterial pneumonia, and pulmonary tuberculosis in HIV-infected patients.
Objectives: To identify features that could help differentiate these three pneumonia types at presentation by evaluating the clinical characteristics of the three diagnoses among patients at two urban teaching hospitals.
Design: Retrospective chart review.
Methods: Cases were HIV-infected patients with a verified hospital discharge diagnosis of PCP (n = 99), bacterial pneumonia (n = 94), or tuberculosis (n = 36). Admitting notes were reviewed in a standardized manner; univariate and multivariate analyses were used to determine clinical predictors of each diagnosis.
Results: Combinations of variables with the highest sensitivity, specificity, and odds ratios (OR) were as follows: for PCP, exertional dyspnea plus interstitial infiltrate (sensitivity 58%, specificity 92%; OR, 16.3); for bacterial pneumonia, lobar infiltrate plus fever < or = 7 days duration (sensitivity 48%, specificity 94%; OR, 14.6); and for tuberculosis, cough > 7 days plus night sweats (sensitivity 33%, specificity 86%; OR, 3.1). On regression analysis, independent predictors included interstitial infiltrate (OR, 10.2), exertional dyspnea (OR, 4.9), and oral thrush (OR, 2.9) for PCP; rhonchi on examination (OR, 12.4), a chart mention of 'toxic' appearance (OR, 9.1), fever < or = 7 days (OR, 6.6), and lobar infiltrate (OR, 5.8) for bacterial pneumonia; and cavitary infiltrate (OR, 21.1), fever > 7 days (OR, 3.9), and weight loss (OR, 3.6) for tuberculosis.
Conclusions: Simple clinical variables, all readily available at the time of hospital admission, can help to differentiate these common pneumonia syndromes in HIV-infected patients. These findings can help to inform clinical decision-making regarding choice of therapy, use of invasive diagnostic procedures, and need for respiratory isolation.