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Br J Radiol. 2016 Oct;89(1066):20160301. doi: 10.1259/bjr.20160301. Epub 2016 Jul 27.

Comparing the performance of trained radiographers against experienced radiologists in the UK lung cancer screening (UKLS) trial.

Author information

1 Department of Radiology, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.
2 Department of Radiology, Royal Brompton Hospital, London, UK.
3 Department of Radiology, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, Liverpool, UK.
4 Department of Radiology, Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge, UK.
5 Centre for Cancer Prevention, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, UK.
6 Roy Castle Lung Cancer Research Programme, Cancer Research Centre, Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.
7 Respiratory Medicine Unit, David Evans Research Centre, Nottingham University Hospitals, Nottingham, UK.



To compare the performance of radiographers against that of radiologists for CT lung nodule detection in the UK Lung Cancer Screening (UKLS) pilot trial.


Four radiographers, trained in CT nodule detection, and three radiologists were prospectively evaluated. 290 CTs performed for the UKLS were independently read by 2 radiologists and 2 radiographers. The reference standard comprised all radiologist-identified positive nodules after arbitration of discrepancies. For each radiographer and radiologist, relative sensitivity and average false positives (FPs) per case were compared for all cases read, as well as for subsets of cases read by each radiographer-radiologist combination (10 combinations).


599 nodules in 209/290 (72.1%) CT studies comprised the reference standard. The relative mean (±standard deviation) sensitivity of the four radiographers was 71.6 ± 8.5% compared with 83.3 ± 8.1% for the three radiologists. Radiographers were less sensitive and detected more FPs per case than radiologists in 7/10 and 8/10 radiographer-radiologist combinations, respectively (ranges of difference 11.2-33.8% and 0.4-2.6; p < 0.05). In 3/10 and 2/10 combinations, there was no difference in sensitivity and FPs per case between radiographers and radiologists. For nodules ≥100 mm(3) in volume or ≥5 mm in maximum diameter, radiographers were relatively less sensitive than radiologists in only 5/10 radiographer-radiologist combinations (range of difference 16.1-30.6%; p < 0.05) and not significantly different in the remaining 5/10 combinations.


Although overall radiographer performance was lower than that of experienced radiologists in this study, some radiographer performances were comparable with that of radiologists.


Overall, radiographers were less sensitive than radiologists reading the same CTs and also displayed higher average FP detections per case when compared with a reference standard derived from radiologist readings. However, some radiographers compared favourably with radiologists, especially when considering larger potentially clinically relevant nodules. Thus, while probably not sensitive enough to function as first readers, radiographers may still be able to fulfil the role of an assistant reader-that is, as a first or concurrent reader, who presents detected nodules for verification to a reading radiologist.

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