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Dermatology Online Journal

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CELLULITIS: A mnemonic to increase accuracy of cellulitis diagnosis


Cellulitis, a bacterial infection of the skin and subcutaneous tissue, is often misdiagnosed. Cellulitis accounts for a large number of all infectious disease-related hospitalizations in the U.S. Cellulitis can be challenging to diagnose since it lacks pathognomonic findings. We reviewed all articles on cellulitis within the last 20 years that included a statistical analysis, with odds ratios (OR), of specific clinical features of cellulitis. We then constructed a mnemonic encompassing the features with the highest odds ratios. Our mnemonic is CELLULITIS for cellulitis history, edema, local warmth, lymphangitis, unilateral, leukocytosis, injury, tender, instant onset, and systemic signs. The first characteristic has the highest OR and may be the easiest to recall: past episode(s) of cellulitis.

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