The authors have studied 352 emergency medical admissions during a summer period and 355 during the winter months to identify 177 patients who had been treated for breathlessness. Multiple and rapidly changing treatments have been taken to indicate diagnostic uncertainty. Using this model, the authors have shown that there is much more uncertainty in winter than in summer and that the working diagnosis of chest infection or asthma is particularly likely to be associated with multiple treatment. It is questionable whether the stereotyped descriptions of diseases in standard text books provide an adequate basis for emergency treatment decisions and it is considered that the diagnostic value of investigations such as chest radiography needs further careful scrutiny.
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