Radiology Reports: What YOU Think You're Saying and What THEY Think You're Saying

Bonmyong Lee, Matthew T. Whitehead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Image interpretation and translation into written language is an imperfect process. Yet, the radiology report represents the link between radiologist's opinion and patient's images. Increased access to images through remote viewing stations has made direct communication between radiologists and clinicians less commonplace. We are interested in how accurately the descriptive contents within radiology reports convey the feelings of the radiologist to the referring clinician. We hypothesize that certain words and phrases hold different connotations for radiologists and clinicians. Materials and Methods: A two part survey was designed. Medical specialty, level of training, and number of radiology reports read/week was contained in part I. Part II concerned the quantification of radiologists' diagnostic confidence in range percentages based on specific words and phrases. These voluntary surveys were emailed to all faculty at a single university medical center. Additional paper surveys were randomly distributed to medical students, residents, and physicians. A total of 100 completed surveys were collected (33 radiologists and 67 non-radiologists). Data was exported to EXCEL for statistical analysis. Direct comparisons were made between the survey answers from radiologists and nonradiologists. Discussion: Percentile ranges for most radiologists and non-radiologists were in agreement in 25/36 questions. However, the absolute percentage value was somewhat variable. 11/36 questions generated discrepancy between radiologists and non-radiologists. The following words and phrases were in disagreement: "diagnostic of", "consistent with", "compatible with", "evidence of", "may represent", "normal", "degraded by artifact", "obscured detail", "mildly limited", "moderately limited", and "nondiagnostic". Conclusion: Sound physician communication is a critical component of quality healthcare delivery. Certain words and phrases carry different meanings for radiologists and clinicians. With structured reporting becoming more prevalent, the radiology lexicon should be defined in a more concrete manner. Ambiguous terms should be eliminated all together.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCurrent Problems in Diagnostic Radiology
StateAccepted/In press - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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