Academic radiology and the emergency department: does it need changing?

Acad Radiol. 2007 May;14(5):625-30. doi: 10.1016/j.acra.2007.01.035.


Rational and objectives: The increasing importance of imaging for both diagnosis and management in patient care has resulted in a demand for radiology services 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, especially in the emergency department (ED). We hypothesized the resident preliminary reports were better than generalist radiology interpretations, although inferior to subspecialty interpretations.

Materials and methods: Total radiology volume through our Level I pediatric and adult academic trauma ED was obtained from the radiology information system. We conducted a literature search for error and discordant rates between radiologists of varying experience. For a 2-week prospective period, all preliminary reports generated by the residents and final interpretations were collected. Significant changes in the report were tabulated.

Results: The ED requested 72,886 imaging studies in 2004 (16% of the total radiology department volume). In a 2-week period, 12 of 1929 (0.6%) preliminary reports by residents were discordant to the final subspecialty dictation. In the 15 peer-reviewed publications documenting error rates in radiology, the error rate between American Board of Radiology (ABR)-certified radiologists is greater than that between residents and subspecialists in the literature and in our study. However, the perceived error rate by clinicians outside radiology is significantly higher.

Conclusion: Sixteen percent of the volume of imaging studies comes through the ED. The residents handle off-hours cases with a radiology-detected error rate below the error rate between ABR-certified radiologists. To decrease the perceived clinician-identified error rate, we need to change how academic radiology handles ED cases.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Medicine
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiology Department, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Specialization