PHM16: Visual Clues Can Help Establish a Diagnosis


PHM16’s Visual Diagnosis: Signs and Why They Matter session led by Dr. Kenneth Roberts and guest presenters was a review of case presentations in which visual clues were vital to establishing a diagnosis. Though much of the content was presented with pictures, the emphasis was placed on the importance of correct diagnosis to avoid both misdiagnoses/over-diagnoses and the potential harm that may result from inappropriate treatment. This may also translate into poor utilization of resources and significant financial burden that can result from the unnecessary hospitalization of a patient.

Many of the presented cases (such as the Gianotti-Crosti toddler over-diagnosed as eczema herpeticum, a child with pseudochromhidrosis misdiagnosed as a cyanotic disease, the case of phytophotodermatitis mistaken as child abuse, and a teen treated for 2 years for JIA before diagnosis of hypertrophic osteoarthropathy was made) highlighted examples in which there was extensive workup, hospitalization, subspecialty evaluation, and even incorrect treatment of patients.

In other instances, such as Henoch-Schonlein purpura, Waardenburg syndrome, or McCune-Albright syndrome, the correct diagnosis is necessary to help guide management and future treatment, including subspecialty evaluation.

Many diseases with visual presentations also have a benign course and require no treatment, and acknowledging this is important in providing reassurance to a family that may be very anxious over the physical appearance of their child.

This session underscores the need for experience and exposure to various signs, not only with rare medical conditions, but also in common illnesses such as Kawasaki and scarlet fever that may present similarly.

Key Takeaway:

Providers should have a high index of suspicion and use visual clues to make the correct diagnosis in order to guide treatment, avoid harm in children, and ensure appropriate utilization of resources.

Chandani DeZure, MD, FAAP, is a pediatric Hospitalist at Children’s National Health System, Instruction of Pediatrics at George Washington University’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C.

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