Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice Commentary

Pattern recognition versus bayesian approach for diagnosis in primary care

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 16 March 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:646
  1. John Fletcher, general practitioner (,
  2. Robin Fox, general practitioner1
  1. 1 Bicester Health Centre, Bicester, Oxon OX26 6AT
  1. Correspondence to: J Fletcher

    Our first thought on reading this case was, “That's just too unusual. We can't possibly send every 28 year old woman with a bit of chest pain off for echocardiography.”1 In thinking that, we were using pattern recognition—a common approach to clinical diagnosis. We assumed that a young woman could not have note-worthy ischaemic heart disease.

    But is there more to this case? If we were to substitute a 28 year old woman for a 50 year old man in the same scenario, most clinicians would recognise a familiar …

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