Interpretation of abdominal CT: analysis of errors and their causes

J Comput Assist Tomogr. 1997 Sep-Oct;21(5):681-5. doi: 10.1097/00004728-199709000-00001.


Purpose: Our goal was to analyze those factors contributing to the error rate in the interpretation of abdominal CT scans at an academic medical center.

Method: From a total of 694 consecutive patients (329 male, 365 female), we evaluated the error rates of interpreting abdominal CT studies. The average patient age was 54 years. All abdominal CT studies were reviewed by three to five CT faculty radiologists on the morning after the studies were performed. The error rate was correlated with reader variability, the number of cases read per day, the presence of a resident, inpatient versus outpatient, organ systems, etc. The chi 2-test was used for statistical analysis.

Results: A total of 56 errors were found in the reports of 53 patients (overall error rate = 7.6%). Of these errors, 19 were judged to be clinically significant and 7 affected patient management. A statistically significant difference in error rates was noted among the five faculty radiologists (3.6-16.1%, p = 0.00062). No significant correlates between error rates and any of the other variables could be established.

Conclusion: The primary determinant of error rates in body CT is the skill of the interpreting radiologist.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / blood supply
  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Angiography
  • Bone and Bones / diagnostic imaging
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Clinical Competence
  • Diagnostic Errors* / statistics & numerical data
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Liver / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / diagnostic imaging
  • Observer Variation
  • Patient Care Planning
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement / methods
  • Radiography, Abdominal*
  • Radiology
  • Spleen / diagnostic imaging
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed* / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed* / statistics & numerical data