Objective: To evaluate the interobserver reliability of pulmonary radiographic findings in patients with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP).
Design: A prospective, multicenter study.
Setting: Physician offices, medical walk-in clinics, emergency departments, and inpatient wards affiliated with three university hospitals, one community hospital, and one staff model health maintenance organization in three geographic areas.
Methods: Copies of the initial chest radiograph of patients suspected of having CAP were independently read by two staff radiologists at the coordinating university hospital. Interobserver reliability for the interpretation for radiographic findings was assessed by calculation of agreement rates and the kappa statistic.
Participants: Adults (age > or = 18 years) with symptoms or signs of CAP and a pulmonary radiographic infiltrate documented by a local study site radiologist.
Results: Among the 282 patients whose initial pulmonary radiographs were evaluated, there was agreement between the two staff radiologists on the presence of infiltrate in 79.4% and on the absence of an infiltrate in 6.0% (kappa = 0.37; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.22 to 0.52). For the 224 patients with an infiltrate identified by both radiologists, there was further agreement that the infiltrate was unilobar in 41.5% and multilobar in 33.9% (kappa = 0.51; 95% CI = 0.28 to 0.62), pleural effusion was present in 10.7% and absent in 73.2% (kappa = 0.46; 95% CI = 0.33 to 0.50), and the infiltrate was alveolar in 96.3% of patients and interstitial in no patients (kappa = -0.01; 95% CI = -0.03 to 0.00). Among the 210 patients with an alveolar infiltrate, both radiologists classified the infiltrate as lobar in 74.6% and bronchopneumonia in 2.4% (kappa = 0.09; 95% CI = -0.04 to 0.22), and agreed on the presence of air bronchograms in 7.6% and their absence in 52.9% (kappa = 0.01; 95% CI = -0.13 to 0.15).
Conclusion: In patients with CAP, two university radiologists identified the presence of infiltrate, multilobar disease, and pleural effusion with fair to good interobserver reliability. However, interobserver reliability for the pattern of infiltrate and the presence of air bronchograms was poor.