The dictionary meaning of Differential Diagnosis is the process of differentiating between two or more conditions which share similar signs or symptoms.
Common abbreviations of the term “differential diagnosis” include DDx, ddx, DD, D/Dx, ΔΔ.
Differential diagnosis is the distinguishing of a particular disease or condition from others that present similar clinical features. Differential diagnostic procedures are used by physicians to diagnose the specific disease in a patient, or, at least, to eliminate any imminently life-threatening conditions. Often, each individual option of a possible disease is called a differential diagnosis (e.g. acute bronchitis could be a differential diagnosis in the evaluation of a cough, even if the final diagnosis is common cold).
• It is a process of distinguishing one disorder from other which have similar signs and symptoms.
• It refers to the process of weighing the probability of one disorder versus that of other disorder possibly accounting for a patient’s clinical picture and preventing symptoms.
• It is a systematic method of diagnosing a disorder that lacks unique signs and symptoms.
• Differential Diagnosis involves distinguishing between disease of similar character by comparing their signs and symptoms.
Differential Diagnosis (DDx,ddx,DD,D/Dx,∆∆):
This method of DD was first introduced by Emile Kraepline for diagnosis of mental disorders. It is a systematic method of diagnosis where the person(clinician) use to identify the presence of entity where multiple alternatives are possible. This procedure is largely used by physicians, psychiatrists and other trained professionals to eliminate any imminently life threatening conditions.
This diagnosis can be regarded as implementing aspects of hypothetical deductive method which means that potential presence of candidate disease or conditions can be viewed as hypo which are further processed as being true or false.
Generating a differential diagnosis — that is, developing a list of the possible conditions that might produce a patient’s symptoms and signs — is an important part of clinical reasoning. It enables appropriate testing to rule out possibilities and confirm a final diagnosis.
The list might be prioritized by likelihood and urgency.
Steps of Differential Diagnosis:
1. Psychiatrist should gather all information about the patient and create a list of symptoms. The list can be in writing or in psychiatrist’s head.
2. Psychiatrist should make a list of all possible causes of symptoms again this be in writing or in psychiatrist’s head but it must be done.
3. Psychiatrist should prioritize the list by placing the most urgently dangerous possible cause of symptoms at top of the list.
4. Psychiatrist should rule out (excluded) or treat possible causes beginning with the most urgently dangerous condition and working his/her own way down the list. (The cause that does not match hypothesis is ruled out)
5. Therefore, DD reveals following-
• It is a process of distinguishing disorder, having similar signs and symptoms.
• It is a systematic method of determining the most probable disorder that can best account for total symptomatic picture of patient. It involves the comparison of symptoms and ruling out the possibilities of all other factors or disorders except the one that can best account for presenting clinical picture/feature.
The core process of Differential Diagnosis:
1. There are several methods for performing DD e.g. the potential present with symptom A and B.
2. The diagnostician creates a list of diseases, disorders, symptoms and syndromes that include symptom A and B.
3. Consider there are only three disease process that features both these symptoms. Let then say it can be condition 1, 2 and 3.
• Condition 1 – A, B, C
• Condition 2 – A, B, C
• Condition 3 – A, B, E
4. The diagnostician test for presence of symptoms of C. A positive result would support diagnosis of condition 1 or 2 and would rule out the possibility of condition 3.
5. If the client tested positive for E, a test for D could be used to differentiate between condition 1 and condition 2.
Note: One of the most confusing task in psychiatric DD is to determine the presence of personality disorder.