Emergency department staff regularly use rapid visual assessment, or “gestalt reasoning”, to decide whether patients need to undergo definitive, often costly and invasive testing.
A study published in the
Emergency Medicine Journal
(online, 14 July 2014) tested the validity of this approach by analysing facial expressions of 50 adult patients with breathing difficulties and chest pain.
When shown a visual stimulus, patients with serious cardiopulmonary disorders had a significantly narrower range of facial expressions than those without. The ability to express surprise had the greatest diagnostic value.
“[S]timulus-evoked facial expressions from emergency department patients with cardiopulmonary symptoms might be a useful component of gestalt pretest probability assessment,” the researchers conclude.