Diagnostic errors by radiology residents in interpreting pediatric radiographs in an emergency setting

Pediatr Radiol. 2004 Apr;34(4):331-6. doi: 10.1007/s00247-004-1150-7. Epub 2004 Feb 11.


Background: There are few data regarding the frequency and type of diagnostic errors made by radiology residents and fellows ("trainees"). However, increasing interest in reducing medical errors highlights the need to analyze which areas of medical knowledge are most problematic for physicians-in-training, including radiology trainees. Once these areas are identified, they can be emphasized during training.

Objective: To quantify the diagnostic errors made by radiology trainees interpreting radiographs from a pediatric emergency department.

Materials and methods: A total of 23,273 dictations of emergency radiographs performed over a 1-year period at a pediatric hospital were analyzed for corrections after staff interpretation and for type and incidence of missed abnormalities by radiology trainees. Errors were categorized by type of pathology and anatomic region.

Results: Of the 80 errors detected, 90% were false negatives and 69% were recurrent. Most errors (69%) involved the diagnosis of fractures and/or dislocations. Sixty-one percent of all recurrent errors involved buckle, Salter II, avulsion, and transverse fractures-yet these cases constituted only 3% of all cases seen during the study period.

Conclusion: The most common errors made by radiology trainees can be identified. By targeting these errors, training programs can improve the quality and relevance of the education they provide.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Diagnostic Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Internship and Residency
  • Male
  • ROC Curve
  • Radiography / methods*
  • Radiology / education*
  • Radiology / methods
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity