The analysis of symptoms and patient history often performed by general practitioners (GPs) is not adequate to accurately diagnose pneumonia, according to the results of a new study.

For the study, GPs recorded whether they thought pneumonia was present in patients immediately after the history and physical examination. Chest radiography was performed in the 2810 patient participants within one week by local radiologists blind to other patient characteristics.

Of the 140 patients with radiographic pneumonia, 41 (29%) had been diagnosed as such by the GP. The respiratory illness was diagnosed in 31 (1%) of patients who did not have radiographic pneumonia.

Patients with radiographic pneumonia, but who had not been diagnosed empirically by GPs, presented with less severe symptoms compared to patients with a clinical diagnosis of pneumonia.