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J Emerg Med. 2013 Nov;45(5):752-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2013.04.041. Epub 2013 Aug 9.

Oxygen saturation can predict pediatric pneumonia in a resource-limited setting.

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  • 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Brown University Medical School, Providence, Rhode Island.



The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends using age-specific respiratory rates for diagnosing pneumonia in children. Past studies have evaluated the WHO criteria with mixed results.


We examined the accuracy of clinical and laboratory factors for diagnosing pediatric pneumonia in resource-limited settings.


We conducted a retrospective chart review of children under 5 years of age presenting with respiratory complaints to three rural hospitals in Rwanda who had received a chest radiograph. Data were collected on the presence or absence of 31 historical, clinical, and laboratory signs. Chest radiographs were interpreted by pediatric radiologists as the gold standard for diagnosing pneumonia. Overall correlation and test characteristics were calculated for each categorical variable as compared to the gold standard. For continuous variables, we created receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves to determine their accuracy for predicting pneumonia.


Between May 2011 and April 2012, data were collected from 147 charts of children with respiratory complaints. Approximately 58% of our sample had radiologist-diagnosed pneumonia. Of the categorical variables, a negative blood smear for malaria (χ(2) = 6.21, p = 0.013) and the absence of history of asthma (χ(2) = 4.48, p = 0.034) were statistically associated with pneumonia. Of the continuous variables, only oxygen saturation had a statistically significant area under the ROC curve (AUC) of 0.675 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.581-0.769 and p = 0.001). Respiratory rate had an AUC of 0.528 (95% CI 0.428-0.627 and p = 0.588).


Oxygen saturation was the best clinical predictor for pediatric pneumonia and should be further studied in a prospective sample of children with respiratory symptoms in a resource-limited setting.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


child; developing countries; diagnosis; international; pediatric; pneumonia

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