Variability in Individual Radiologist BI-RADS 3 Usage at a Large Academic Center: What's the Cause and What Should We Do About It?

Emily B. Ambinder, Lisa A. Mullen, Eniola Falomo, Kelly Myers, Jessica Hung, Bonmyong Lee, Susan C. Harvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Rationale and Objectives: Although the breast imaging reporting and data system (BI-RADS) lists specific criteria for designating a lesion as BI-RADS category 3 (probably benign), there are no target benchmarks for BI-RADS 3 usage rates. This study investigates the variability of BI-RADS 3 rates among a group of academic breast imagers, with the goal of defining more precise utilization. Materials and Methods: We retrospectively reviewed all diagnostic mammograms performed between July 1, 2013 and August 8, 2017 at our academic institution. The percentage of diagnostic mammograms given a BI-RADS 3 assessment was compared between radiologists using the Chi-square test. We then evaluated for correlation between BI-RADS 3 rate and individual clinical metrics (eg, radiologist experience, cancer detection rate [CDR] and recall rate) using univariate linear regression. Results: The study included 13 breast imagers and 24,051 diagnostic breast examinations. There was significant variability in BI-RADS 3 rates between radiologists, ranging from 8.0% to 19.3% (p < 0.001). Increased BI-RADS 3 rates negatively correlated with BI-RADS 1 or 2 rate (p < 0.001) and positively correlated with recall rate (p = 0.03). There was no association between BI-RADS 3 rate and the radiologist's level of experience, BI-RADS 4 or 5 rate, or CDR. Conclusion: We found significant variability in BI-RADS 3 usage, which seems to be used in place of BI-RADS 1 or 2 findings rather than to avoid biopsy recommendation. BI-RADS 3 rates also directly correlated with recall rate, suggesting a greater degree of uncertainty among specific radiologists. Importantly, increased usage of BI-RADS 3 did not correlate with provider experience or improved CDR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)915-922
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic radiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • BI-RADS 3
  • Breast imaging
  • breast cancer
  • short interval follow up

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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