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Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2000 September; 82(5): 336–338.
PMCID: PMC2503602

The influence of experience and specialisation on the reliability of a common clinical sign.


OBJECTIVES: To explore the influence of experience and specialisation on clinical judgement by comparing accuracy in diagnosing anaemia between a consultant general surgeon, a consultant ophthalmologist and their registrars. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Conjunctival inspection of 101 patients, subsequent correlation with haemoglobin concentration. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Number of correct and incorrect diagnoses of anaemia. RESULTS: 54 patients were anaemic and 47 were not. Overall accuracy in diagnosing anaemia ranged from 0.61-0.69, sensitivity 0.52-0.65 and specificity 0.62-0.83. Agreements between pairs of examiners were 0.68-0.81, with kappa values of 0.36-0.60 when adjusted for chance agreement. CONCLUSIONS: Neither experience nor specialisation significantly influenced our ability to diagnose anaemia, based on conjunctival inspection. Without critical analysis of clinical signs, we are unaware of their diagnostic limitations.

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