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Examining the lymph nodes is an important aspect of the general physical examination of both well and ill children and adolescents. Lymph nodes are normal structures, and certain lymph nodes may be palpable in a healthy patient, particularly in a young child. Conversely, the presence of abnormally enlarged lymph nodes (“lymphadenopathy”) can be a clue to a serious underlying systemic disease, and the differential diagnosis of lymphadenopathy can be broad. Thus, the challenge for the general pediatrician is to learn how to distinguish pathologic from nonpathologic lymph nodes and to develop a rational approach to the evaluation of lymphadenopathy. Because of its association with malignancy, lymphadenopathy can be a major source of parental anxiety. Therefore, it is crucial to know when to provide reassurance and to recognize when concern is sufficient to warrant referral to a subspecialist.

The lymphatic system is...

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