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Radiologists, Primary Care Physicians, and Terminology


How is terminology between radiologists and primary care providers interpreted?

Most radiologists and primary care providers (PCSs) agree regarding significance of evaluated radiology terminology, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Researchers from Missouri and Massachusetts undertook a study to assess the lexicon used by radiologists and referring physicians, and their respective interpretations. Using an internal listserv, the researchers sent a survey to radiologists and PCPs, asking about their interpretation of the statistical likelihood of the presence of metastatic disease based upon the terminology used within a hypothetical radiology report. Ten common modifying terms were evaluated. Potential responses for the statistical likelihoods included:

0%to 25%

26% to 50%

51% to 75%

76% to 99%


The results showed that the “diagnostic for metastatic disease” and “represents metastatic disease” were selected by a high percentage of both groups as conferring a 100% likelihood of “true metastatic disease.”[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"52042","attributes":{"alt":"Radiology terminology","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_4561102695746","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"6447","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 164px; width: 170px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":"©Modella/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

The phrases “cannot exclude metastatic disease” and “may represent metastatic disease” were selected by a high proportion of both groups as conferring a 0%likelihood of “true metastatic disease.” The radiologists assigned a higher statistical likelihood to the terms “diagnostic for metastatic disease”, “represents metastatic disease”, “suspicious for metastatic disease”, “consistent with metastatic disease”, and “compatible with metastatic disease” (P = .003).

The researchers concluded that a “qualitative agreement among radiologists and PCPs exists concerning the significance of the evaluated terminology, although radiologists assigned a higher statistical likelihood than PCPs for several phrases.”

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