Comparison was made of the aetiology and methods of diagnosis in two series of patients meeting the classic criteria of pyrexia of unknown origin during 1968-1981 and during 1982-1989 seen in the Department of Internal Medicine at La Paz University Hospital, Madrid, Spain. There was a statistically significant decrease in the percentage of infections and an increase in neoplasms and connective tissue disorders in the second series. The percentage of patients diagnosed by laparatomy was similar in both series but the diagnosis yield at laparotomy was greater in the second period. Pyrexia of unknown origin continues to be a condition which can defy clinical expertise in in spite of advances in diagnostic techniques.
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