Diagnostic Error in Pediatrics: A Narrative Review

Trisha L. Marshall, Michael L. Rinke, Andrew P.J. Olson, Patrick W. Brady

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


A priority topic for patient safety research is diagnostic errors. However, despite the significant growth in awareness of their unacceptably high incidence and associated harm, a relative paucity of large, high-quality studies of diagnostic error in pediatrics exists. In this narrative review, we present what is known about the incidence and epidemiology of diagnostic error in pediatrics as well as the established research methods for identifying, evaluating, and reducing diagnostic errors, including their strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, we highlight that pediatric diagnostic error remains an area in need of both innovative research and quality improvement efforts to apply learnings from a rapidly growing evidence base. We propose several key research questions aimed at addressing persistent gaps in the pediatric diagnostic error literature that focus on the foundational knowledge needed to inform effective interventions to reduce the incidence of diagnostic errors and their associated harm. Additional research is needed to better establish the epidemiology of diagnostic error in pediatrics, including identifying high-risk clinical scenarios, patient populations, and groups of diagnoses. A critical need exists for validated measures of both diagnostic errors and diagnostic processes that can be adapted for different clinical settings and standardized for use across varying institutions. Pediatric researchers will need to work collaboratively on large-scale, high-quality studies to accomplish the ultimate goal of reducing diagnostic errors and their associated harm in children by addressing these fundamental gaps in knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020045948D
Issue numberSuppl 3
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.


  • Child
  • Diagnostic Errors/prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Patient Safety
  • Pediatrics
  • Quality Improvement

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Journal Article


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