Problems in physicians' classification and reporting of congenital syphilis

R. J. Yetman, W. L. Risser, B. A. Barth, J. M. Risser, L. Y. Hwang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The diagnosis of congenital syphilis (CS) in newborns can only be made through a review of the mothers' testing and treatment history and through the infants' clinical and laboratory findings. We describe difficulties in the classification of CS by physicians and the health department during a recent syphilis epidemic. The records of infants identified as potential cases of CS by laboratory testing, discharge diagnosis, or health department records were reviewed by epidemiologists. The reasons for concordance and discordance in classification between the physician and the epidemiologist were determined. Congenital syphilis was identified in 126 infants. Seventeen cases were discordant and 12 cases concordant but the physician's classification was for incorrect reasons. Misclassification occurred because physicians lacked data known to the health department (n = 7), health departments lacked data known to the physician (n = 1), and physicians misinterpreted the case definition for CS (n = 21). Suggestions for improving the diagnosis and reporting of CS are included.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)765-768
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Journal of STD and AIDS
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1998


  • Congenital syphilis
  • Neonate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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