A preliminary evaluation of diagnostic odds in lung scan reporting

Nucl Med Commun. 1998 Feb;19(2):113-8. doi: 10.1097/00006231-199802000-00004.


Reporting of lung scans for pulmonary embolism (PE) using a descriptive probability notation is tried and tested. Subjectivity in interpretation of this jargon can be a problem for internists. Parallel descriptive and numerical probability reporting has been recommended, but the numerical probability scale is less precise than likelihood ratios expressed as odds. We therefore assessed internists' intuitive understanding of lung scan reports in the odds format compared to the descriptive probability notation. A questionnaire was sent to Scotland's 217 internists to assess their intuitive understanding of odds reporting and to compare their management strategies when confronted by lung scan reports in both an odds and a descriptive probability notation. There was a broad understanding of numerical odds. Internists used 'normal' and '100:1 against PE' identically; similarly, 'low probability' and '10:1 against PE'. There was a statistically significant preference for the diagnosis of PE when internists were given the '1:1 evens' report compared with the 'indeterminate' report. There does appear to be a greater awareness of the risk of PE when non-diagnostic lung scans are reported in numerical odds as compared with the descriptive probability format.

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ventilation-Perfusion Ratio