The efficacy of diagnostic imaging

Med Decis Making. Apr-Jun 1991;11(2):88-94. doi: 10.1177/0272989X9101100203.


The authors discuss the assessment of the contribution of diagnostic imaging to the patient management process. A hierarchical model of efficacy is presented as an organizing structure for appraisal of the literature on efficacy of imaging. Demonstration of efficacy at each lower level in this hierarchy is logically necessary, but not sufficient, to assure efficacy at higher levels. Level 1 concerns technical quality of the images; Level 2 addresses diagnostic accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity associated with interpretation of the images. Next, Level 3 focuses on whether the information produces change in the referring physician's diagnostic thinking. Such a change is a logical prerequisite for Level 4 efficacy, which concerns effect on the patient management plan. Level 5 efficacy studies measure (or compute) effect of the information on patient outcomes. Finally, at Level 6, analyses examine societal costs and benefits of a diagnostic imaging technology. The pioneering contributions of Dr. Lee B. Lusted in the study of diagnostic imaging efficacy are highlighted.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Protocols / standards*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Making*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / economics
  • Diagnostic Imaging / standards*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Research
  • Sensitivity and Specificity