Clinical correlation is a medical process physicians use to help them make a diagnosis on a patient to treat his or her condition.
Clinical correlation is used after a diagnostic test – such as an X-ray, biopsy, or MRI – shows something on an image or tissue scan that is suspicious, abnormal, or notable. The physician then refers to the patient’s age, past medical history, physical health, clinical tests, and symptoms to determine a diagnosis based on correlating (comparing and contrasting) the clinical findings of the patient. Clinical findings are observable conditions of a disease or condition with symptoms as reported by a patient.
The following example of clinical correlation will help you understand it better. At is simplest, a medical test is conducted to help correlate (compare) the symptoms and patient’s medical history to determine a diagnosis.
For example, your lymph nodes have been hurting you so you go to your doctor for an exam; your physician refers you to a radiologist. A radiologist takes an X-ray, examines it and observes if there is a possibility you could have lymphadenitis. Lymphadenitis occurs when the lymph glands becomes enlarged because of bacteria, viruses, fungi, or other reasons.
At its worst, the inflamed glands are sometimes near the site of a tumor or infection and swollen lymph nodes are a warning sign for autoimmune diseases, lymphoma, and salivary cancer.
Unable to determine if the condition is lymphadenitis or more severe diseases, the radiologist orders a clinical correlation. The radiologist will send the information back to your physician (correlating clinical findings) who will then take all the medical knowledge he or she has of your medical history and compare your overall “whole health picture” and symptoms to determine how serious your condition is.
If your doctor report states the lymph nodes are not too enlarged and it could just be a possible minor infection. The doctor calls for six to eight weeks of observation to see if your symptoms improve or get worse and prescribes you antibiotics to fight the infection. If the swelling increases and your lymph nodes grow larger, the doctor will rule out infection and give you a biopsy to determine if you have salivary cancer or another autoimmune disease. Your doctor will then correlate the clinical findings to make a diagnosis and prescribe treatment.
It should be noted that many times with clinical correlation – especially in the elderly – there are findings across the board that or may not be associated with a patient's symptoms and may not be the onset of a disease or serious infection. The findings are put into perspective by correlating clinical findings with the patient's age and past medical history.