Clinical Correlation


A clinical correlation is a technical term that is used when scientists perform research or when a doctor is making a diagnosis. Basically, this term is used once a doctor has performed a diagnostic test like an MRI, laboratory work, a biopsy or an X-ray. There may be something in the test that seems suspicious or out of the ordinary, but the test alone is not enough for the doctor to actually make a diagnosis. Instead, the physician looks at the patient’s medical history, their age, symptoms, test results and overall health to figure out what is wrong. By doing this, they can correlate the different factors to figure out what the most likely issue is.

An Example of How a Clinical Correlation Works

If you go to the doctor with painful lymph nodes, your doctor would start by taking a patient history and may refer you to a radiologist. Once you go to the radiologist, they may check for lymphadenitis since this common condition can cause the lymph glands to become enlarged. This could happen due to fungi, bacteria or other causes.

Other than lymphadenitis, you could have inflamed glands because of an autoimmune disease, a tumor, salivary cancer, an infection of lymphoma. The radiologist would use the initial X-ray to rule out some of these problems. If lymphadenitis is ruled out, the radiologist may recommend that your doctor runs a clinical correlation. During this time, your doctor will read through your medical history to gain a better understanding of your overall health. They may look at your other symptoms, run other tests or look for more serious diseases.

After running these tests and looking at your clinical history, the doctor may rule out any serious problems. The lymph nodes can become enlarged due to a minor infection, so the doctor may give you antibiotics to fight the infection and wait six weeks or longer to see if anything changes. If your lymph nodes do not return to normal or even increase in size, the doctor will decide that it is not an infection. When this happens, they may ask for a biopsy to check for cancer or another disease. The doctor would then use these findings to correlate a diagnosis and a treatment.

A clinical correlation is one of the ways that doctors can make a diagnosis when an obvious cause is not present. Depending on the age and health of the patient, making a clinical correlation can be extremely difficult. The presence of non-related diseases or conditions makes it difficult for doctors to figure out what symptoms are actually relevant. In these cases, it may take longer for the doctor to create a clinical correlation. With time, patience, tests and a medical history, the physician will generally be able to make a clinical correlation and diagnose the patient’s medical condition.


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