The quality of emergency room radiograph interpretations

J Fam Pract. 1985 May;20(5):443-8.


Primary care physicians often make patient management decisions based in part on their own interpretations of radiographs. This important area of clinical decision making has not been previously analyzed in the literature. In this series of 294 consecutive radiographs from rural practice, interpretative disagreement between primary care providers and backup radiologists occurred 9.2 percent of the time, a discordance rate similar to that seen among radiologists in other studies. Although a majority of the films for which interpretative disagreement occurred had potential implications for influencing patient management, in only seven cases did actual case management vary from appropriate norms. Follow-up of cases where interpretative disagreement occurred revealed that in only two cases did unsatisfactory outcomes occur. Primary care physicians can provide high-quality radiographic interpretations that, when coupled with clinical information, yield extremely low rates of error or potential for poor patient outcomes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bone and Bones / diagnostic imaging
  • Decision Making*
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Hospital Bed Capacity, under 100
  • Humans
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Physicians, Family*
  • Radiography / standards*
  • Rural Health
  • Washington