Cardinal sign (pathology)

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In pathology, a cardinal sign or cardinal symptom is the primary or major clinical sign symptom by which a diagnosis is made.[1]

A cluster of signs or symptoms are often combined (pathognomonic) to better diagnose a specific disease or syndrome.


Inflammation is characterized by five cardinal signs:[2]

  • rubor (redness),
  • calor (increased heat),
  • tumor (swelling),
  • dolor (pain), and
  • functio laesa (loss of function).

In acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis, diagnosis is normally based on the three cardinal signs of:[3]


  1. ^ > cardinal symptom definition - medical Citing: The American Heritage Medical Dictionary. Copyright 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
  2. ^ Parakrama Chandrasoma, Clive R. Taylor (c. 2005). "Part A. General Pathology, Section II. The Host Response to Injury, Chapter 3. The Acute Inflammatory Response, sub-section Cardinal Clinical Signs". Concise Pathology (3rd edition (Computer file) ed.). New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-8385-1499-5. OCLC 150148447. Retrieved 2008-11-05. 
  3. ^ The British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy > Acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis (AECB) Retrieved on Mars 13, 2010