Diagnostic accuracy of fever as a measure of postoperative pulmonary complications.
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Various prevalence rates have been estimated for pulmonary complications after abdominal surgery, and fever has been thought to be a diagnostic indicator. This study quantifies the diagnostic accuracy of fever as a measure of postoperative pulmonary complications and includes the sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values. Assessments using fever and chest x-ray film were determined for 270 patients after elective intra-abdominal surgery in three hospitals with six practicing surgeons in a Southern Ontario city. With use of reliable chest x-ray reports indicating lung pathologic findings as positive for pulmonary complication, the prevalence of a positive finding was 57%. The prevalence of a fever (temperature greater than or equal to 38 degrees C) was 40%. The sensitivity and negative predictive value of fever were slightly below 50%, and the specificity and positive predictive value of fever was 68% and 66% respectively. Fever was an accurate indicator of x-ray evidence of atelectasis in only 56% of the subjects. Therefore, neither the presence nor the absence of fever can assure clinicians of the presence or absence of a postoperative pathologic pulmonary complication such as atelectasis.
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