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Pyelonephritis: Sensitivity and Specificity

Introduction: Acute Pyelonephritis is usually defined as a UTI plus fever. However, according to the one study that everyone cites (see below), this is simply untrue.

Other diagnostic findings are leukocytosis, CVAT or flank pain, and WBC casts in the urine.

See also Urinary Tract Infection, which has many related diagnostic findings, including CVAT and flank pain.

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Tags: Infection Tag this Diagnosis.

Differential Diagnoses include: Urinary Tract Infection

The sensitivity and specificity of findings for Pyelonephritis are listed below. See the left navigation bar to change the display.

Specific Findings

Finding SensitivitySpecificity Comments, Study
Fever Edit 42%91%

Population: women presenting to ED with pyuria AND either: clinically suspected pyelonephritis without fever, or fever.

Differential Diagnosis: Urinary Tract Infection

Study: Am J Emerg Med. 1997 Mar;15(2):148-51. PMID 9115515

Poorly Diagnostic Findings

Finding SensitivitySpecificity Comments, Study
Blood Cultures Edit Sensitivity = 11%

specificity not assessed. Contaminant blood cultures counted as negative. Blood cultures did not have a greater sensitivity than urine cultures except in 1/307 patients.

Study: Am J Emerg Med. 1997 Mar;15(2):137-40.

Findings With Unspecified Accuracy

Finding SensitivitySpecificity Comments, Study
White Cell Cast Edit No accuracy specified.

supposedly pathognomonic

Study: no study specified.

Abdominal CT Edit No accuracy specified.

contrast is necessary to demonstrate heterogeneous renal parenchyma - however, asymmetric perinephric stranding (which can be seen on non-contrast CTs) is also indicative of pyelonephritis

heterogeneous enhancement of renal parenchyma is generally thought to be very sensitive and specific (e.g. more so than US)

Study: no study specified.