Throughout their training and practice, physicians become adept at pattern recognition as a means to efficiently connect and synthesize seemingly disparate laboratory, physical exam, and radiologic and historical findings into a coherent theory for what likely ails the patient sitting in front of them. This inductive method of reasoning is necessary because, based on these conclusions, a physician will then choose from among a huge array of diagnostic tests to validate their clinical suspicions.
Explore this issueMarch 2017
Frequently (and especially for inflammatory diseases), a panel of diagnostic tests will be required to evaluate each of the possible diagnoses being entertained. Judiciously pursuing the diagnostic workup helps minimize the risk of false-positive results that could lead to more invasive and risky testing and treatments.
The multi-organ inflammatory diseases evaluated and treated by rheumatologists and infectious disease doctors exemplify how challenging it can be to pursue a parsimonious diagnostic work-up. As a result, novel diagnostic testing strategies not only need to be more sensitive than existing tests, but they also need to more comprehensively query a patient sample for an array of possible etiologies to avoid missing diagnoses that may not fit existing diagnostic algorithms and clinical phenotypes.