Sonographers almost as accurate as radiologists interpreting abdominal ultrasound

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 - Ultrasound4

When it comes to interpreting biliary ultrasound scans, there’s not a lot of discrepancy between sonographers offering preliminary reads and radiologists giving final interpretations.

At least, that’s the case at the University of Kentucky’s UK HealthCare, where researchers observed an interpretation discrepancy rate of 15.5 percent between the two groups. The radiologists proved correct slightly more frequently, but this did not meet statistical significance, according to a study published online April 10 in Ultrasound Quarterly.

Meanwhile, clinically impactful discrepant findings (6.5 percent of all discrepancies) were all correctly called by the radiologists.

Lead author Adrian Dawkins, MD, and co-authors arrived at these results after retrospectively reviewing 400 consecutive right upper-quadrant ultrasound scans performed by sonographers.

The study team, made up of six attending radiologists, a radiology resident, the ultrasound technical manager and the lead sonographer, compared sonographers’ worksheets with the final radiology report.

For the purposes of this project, only the biliary findings on abdominal ultrasound were compared and reviewed, the authors note.

Five experienced abdominal radiologists reviewed discrepant findings, using a majority vote to determine truth.

The team found that, of the 400 scans, there were 338 agreements and 62 discrepancies.

The most frequently contested discrepancy was the presence or absence of pericholecystic fluid (n = 21).

Sonographers were deemed correct eight times and radiologists 13 times, and the overall sonographer/radiologist split was 30/32, with radiologists deemed correct 52 percent of the time and sonographers 48 percent of the time.

Further, using a proportion test with continuity correction, the team found no statistically significant discrepancies between the two groups.

“We observed an interpretation discrepancy rate of 15.5 percent with radiologists deemed correct slightly more frequently, although this did not meet statistical significance,” Dawkins et al. write. “Clinically impactful discrepant findings (6.5 percent of all discrepancies) were all correctly called by the radiologists.”

Both groups “bring tremendous value to the ultrasound arena, and continued collaboration should be encouraged,” the authors conclude.