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Clin Radiol. 2002 Jun;57(6):477-82.

What do patients know about ultrasound, CT and MRI?

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Health Services Research Group, Faculty of Health and Social Care, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, U.K.



To establish the level of patient knowledge of ultrasound (US), computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); to describe patient information-seeking behaviour before attendance; and to assess patients' understanding of the main aspects of scanning examinations.


Survey of people attending for ultrasound, CT and MRI using a questionnaire, including 12 statements on simple aspects of procedures, to be indicated as true or false.


Radiology department of an acute teaching hospital NHS Trust in the north-east of Scotland.


A convenience sample of 500 out-patient, non-emergency first time attenders for ultrasound (300), computed tomography (150), and magnetic resonance imaging (50).


An 82% response rate to the questionnaire was achieved. Less than half the patients (48.9%, 182/372) indicated they knew the type of investigation they had been referred for. When responses were compared with referral letters, 64% (238/372) were incongruent. Few participants hadsought information (32%, 120/372), but of those who had the main source was family and friends (72%, 86/120). Seven participants searched the Internet. Eighty-two percent (308/372) of participants reported having been given an explanation of why an investigation was necessary. The majority of participants (67.8%, 251/372) expected to receive their results within 2 weeks. The mean score on the 12 true/false knowledge statements was 3.8, and 17% (65/372) answered 'Don't know' to all the statements. One person answered all questions correctly.


Patients were not well informed regarding these investigations. This has significant implications for information-giving strategies and informed consent.

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