Charcot triad

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 23 Jun 2022

Charcot triad is the finding of pyrexia, right upper quadrant pain and jaundice, and is a traditional clinical sign of acute cholangitis.

A meta-analysis of 4288 patients in 16 studies found that the sensitivity of Charcot triad for acute cholangitis was poor (36.3%) with a much better specificity (93.2%).  However the specificity had only been provided in three of the pooled studies 1. Therefore - perhaps unsurprisingly - if the triad is positive then cholangitis is likely, but if absent one cannot confidently exclude the diagnosis.

The five clinical signs of Reynolds pentad incorporate Charcot triad 1,4.

History and etymology

Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893) was trained as a pathologist, but he was also a skilled practising physician, and for many the father of neurology - who also made important contributions to psychiatry. He also has the distinction of probably having more medical eponyms named for him than any other individual in history 2,3.

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