Effectiveness of second-opinion radiology consultations to reassess the cervical spine CT scans: a study on trauma patients referred to a tertiary-care hospital

Diagn Interv Radiol. Sep-Oct 2015;21(5):423-7. doi: 10.5152/dir.2015.15003.


Purpose: A second opinion is a valuable resource in confirming proper medical diagnosis and treatment. This study evaluates the effectiveness of second-opinion radiology consultations to reassess the cervical spine computed tomography (CT) scans of the trauma patients referred to our hospital.

Methods: Cervical spine CT scans of 301 consecutive adult trauma patients, who were referred to our hospital from outside institutions, were analyzed. The emergency radiologists at our institution completed the over-read reports on the CT images obtained at the outside facilities. A single radiologist compared the outside- and over-read reports and determined the discrepancy of the radiologic reports.

Results: Based on the outside reports, 31% of the CT scans had cervical traumatic injury. In 92% of patients, the first-read and the over-read reports had consistent radiologic findings. About 90% of the positive, and 93% of the negative radiologic findings, were reported consistently in the over-read reports. Our analysis showed that the over-read reporting resulted in reassurance of negative findings in 63%; confirmation of positive findings in 29%; clearing a false diagnosis in 3%; and detection of a missed diagnosis in 5%. A rescan was done in 80% of patients with inconsistent and 20% of patients with consistent findings (P < 0.05). The most common missed radiologic findings in the first-reports were transverse and spinous process fractures and the most common misdiagnoses were dens fractures.

Conclusion: For a service offering second-opinion consultations on cervical spine trauma, review of outside CT studies improves diagnosis and benefits patient care.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Spinal Fractures / diagnosis*
  • Tertiary Care Centers
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Young Adult