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Am J Emerg Med. 1996 Jul;14(4):346-8.

Radiographic interpretation in the emergency department.

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University of Pittsburgh Affiliated Residency in Emergency Medicine, PA, USA.


This study examined the concordance of radiographic readings between emergency department (ED) attending physicians and radiologists in a community teaching hospital. In addition, the incidents of misinterpretations leading to an alteration in patient care were also reviewed. All radiographs obtained from January through October 1993 were initially interpreted by ED attending physicians with subsequent final review by attending radiology staff. Misread radiographs were placed into one of three categories. The groupings included overread radiographs with no change in treatment, underread radiographs with no change in treatment, and radiograph misinterpretations with a change in treatment. Of 15,585 radiographs obtained during the study period, there were 120 misreads; 12,099 (77.6%) of the 15,585 radiographs had an initial emergency physician interpretation. Radiographic misinterpretations included 7 (5.78%) overreads, 57 (47.1%) underreads, and 57 (47.51%) misreads requiring follow-up (MR-FU). The five most frequently misread radiographs were: abdominal, 12/247 (4.4%); rib, 3/99 (3.0%); foot, 13/621 (2.1%); hip, 3/152 (1.9%); and ankle 11/758 (1.4%). The most frequently obtained radiographs included: chest, 7,012 (0.33% MR-FU); cervical spine, 1,112 (0.18% MR-FU); ankle, 758 (0.66% MR-FU); knee, 633 (0.32% MR-FU); and foot, 621 (0.97% MR-FU). In this study, 99.0% of all emergency department radiographs were read correctly on initial review by ED attending physicians. Of all misread radiographs, less than half (46%) were deemed clinically significant and required a follow-up intervention.

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