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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1990 Oct;155(4):743-7; discussion 748-9.

Canadian National Breast Screening Study: assessment of technical quality by external review.

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Department of Preventive Medicine & Biostatistics, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Mammograms from the Canadian National Breast Screening Study (NBSS) were reviewed by three external experts to provide an objective evaluation of their technical quality, to establish a model for auditing mammograms in a screening program, and to assess whether NBSS mammograms improved over time. The sample reviewed included 10 randomly chosen mammograms from each of 15 screening centers for each calendar year of their operation between 1980 and 1987. All 830 mammograms were reviewed on two consecutive days in randomized sequence by each reader, and rated 0-3 for each of four criteria including positioning and image quality, with a total possible score of 0-12. Although the mammograms were not in temporal sequence when reviewed, the scores assigned by each reader were significantly higher for mammograms dating from later years. Subjects' ages at entry (40-49 vs 50-59 years) did not affect the score. The largest increase in scores was associated with a 1985 protocol change in which mediolateral oblique positioning replaced straight mediolateral positioning. This study reinforces the importance of monitoring technical quality in screening programs and establishes that the NBSS benefited from technical improvements during its operation. A retrospective review of NBSS mammography by three external reviewers confirmed that technical quality improved from 1980 to 1987. This improvement was associated with improved technology (film, processing, and units) and with the quality assurance programs operating during the NBSS, which identified problems and offered remedies.

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