What is a chief complaint?

Steven V. Gurland, MD
Internal Medicine

A  Chief complaint is the medical term used to describe the primary problem of the patient that led the patient to seek medical attention and of which they are most concerned.

The chief complaint is obtained by the Physician in the initial part of the visit when the medical history is being taken.It will be elicited by asking the patient what brings them to be seen ?and what major symptoms or problems they are experiencing?

It is not the part of the history that deals with chronic medical problems or family history of disease.It focuses the physicians attention on what the priority should be in the evaluation of the patient. It helps to direct  the additional history taking and it helps to lead to the appropriate physical exam of the pertinent organ systems of the patient that are relevant to the problem.

Continue Learning about Managing Your Health Care

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.