Overnight resident interpretation of torso CT at a level 1 trauma center an analysis and review of the literature

Acad Radiol. 2009 Sep;16(9):1155-60. doi: 10.1016/j.acra.2009.02.017. Epub 2009 May 30.


Rationale and objectives: At the authors' level 1 trauma center, postgraduate year 3 and 4 radiology residents interpret urgent overnight imaging studies, which are reviewed by attending radiologists the next morning. The goals of this study were to determine the discrepancy rate for torso computed tomography between resident radiologists' preliminary interpretations and attending radiologists' final interpretations and to identify adverse patient events secondary to the delayed diagnoses.

Materials and methods: All torso computed tomographic studies interpreted by weekday night residents (8 pm to 8 am) from January 1, 2005, to March 13, 2007, were evaluated retrospectively. Major discrepancies between the residents' interpretations and the attending radiologists' interpretations were compiled. Exams with major discrepancies were additionally reviewed by two radiology residents and an attending emergency radiologist. The medical records of patients with major discrepant findings were also reviewed to identify adverse events that occurred because of the delays in final interpretation.

Results: A total of 4768 chest, abdominal, and/or pelvic computed tomographic studies were interpreted during the study period. A total of 112 major discrepancies were collected. In 17 cases (15%), two additional radiology residents and an attending emergency radiologist agreed with the initial residents' interpretations, decreasing the major discrepancy rate to 95 of 4768 (2.0%), consistent with data from the literature (0.4%-10%). Management was changed in 16 patients (0.3%) because of the major discrepancies: 13 patients underwent additional investigations, and 3 patients were recalled to the emergency room. No mortality or morbidity was directly attributed to the delays in diagnosis.

Conclusion: At the authors' institution, there was a 2.0% discrepancy rate between residents' preliminary interpretations and attending radiologists' final interpretations of overnight torso computed tomography, with a small rate of additional intervention as a result of the major discrepancies. No adverse patient effects were directly attributable to discrepant interpretations. In discrepant cases, there was a 15% disagreement rate (17 of 112) between attending radiologists, suggesting some degree of interreader variance in interpretation. In addition, this disagreement rate among attending radiologists may imply that these cases were complex. Because there is educational value in overnight call, independent radiology resident coverage should continue.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Observer Variation
  • Professional Competence
  • Radiography, Thoracic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Thoracic Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Thoracic Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / statistics & numerical data*
  • Washington