Clinicians value radiology reports, radiologist's interpretation over images

Clinicians view radiology reports more frequently than the actual images, suggesting these interpretations from radiologists are more valuable, according to a study published May 7 in the Journal of the American College of Radiology

Researchers, led by Matthew Alvin, MD, MBA, from Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, analyzed 7,438 studies, finding radiology reports were examined in 85.7 percent of cases and imaging reports were viewed 53.2 percent of the time. Neither images nor reports were reviewed in 13.1 percent of cases.

Images alone were viewed in less than 1.2 percent of all studies, "strongly suggesting that the radiologist and his or her interpretation are more valuable than the study's images," the researchers wrote. Viewing radiology reports more than images was most commonly found in obstetrics and gynecology, urology and emergency medicine. 

Alvin and his colleagues collected data from 7,438 neuroradiology studies ordered over a 30-day period. The team recorded when the imaging study orders were placed, the patient underwent imaging, the imaging studies were viewed and the radiology reports were accessed and by whom. 

"Study modalities included MRI and MR angiography (brain, orbits, face, neck, spine) with and without intravenous contrast, CT and CT angiography (brain, spine, maxillofacial, neck, sinus) with and without intravenous contrast, fluoroscopy (lumbar puncture, myelogram), and ultrasound (neonatal brain and spine)," the researchers wrote.

Alvin et al. found inpatient neurosurgeons and neurologists viewed both imaging and reports more often than primary care specialties. This was not true, however, in an outpatient setting. Outpatient study imaging was viewed by less than half of specialists in all.  

Additionally, one in eight neuroradiology studies had neither its report nor images viewed, with 27.2 percent of cases ordered by neurologists, according to the researchers.  

"How do we explain these patterns? Based on our departmental physician interactions, specialties other than neurology or neurosurgery likely are less comfortable with neuroradiology studies, partly because of lower volumes ordered," the researchers wrote.