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Proceedings Paper

The impact of radiology expertise upon the localization of subtle pulmonary lesions
Author(s): John W. Robinson; Patrick C. Brennan; Claudia Mello-Thoms; Sarah J. Lewis
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Paper Abstract

Rationale and objectives: This study investigates the influence of radiology expertise in the correct localization of lesions when radiologists are requested to complete an observer task. Specifically, the ability to detect pulmonary lesions of different subtleties is explored in relation to radiologists’ reported specialty. Materials and Methods: Institutional ethics was granted. Ten radiologists (5 thoracic, 5 non-thoracic) interpreted 40 posterior-anterior (PA) chest x-rays (CXRs) consisting of 21 normal and 19 abnormal cases (solitary pulmonary nodule). The abnormal cases contained a solitary nodule with an established subtlety (subtlety 5 = obvious to subtlety 1 = extremely subtle). Radiologists read the test set and identified any pulmonary nodule using a 1-5 confidence scale (1=no pulmonary nodule to 5=highest confidence case contains a pulmonary lesion). The radiologists interpreted the image bank twice and the cases were randomized for each reader between reads. Results: The Kruskal-Wallis test identified that subtlety of nodules significantly influenced the sensitivity of nonthoracic radiologists (P=<0.0001) and thoracic radiologists (P=<0.0001). A Wilcoxon rank test demonstrated a significant difference in sensitivity for radiologist specialisation (P=0.013), with thoracic radiologists better compared to non-thoracic radiologists (mean sensitivity 0.479 and 0.389 respectively). The sensitivity of nodule detection decreased when comparing subtlety 4 to 3, 3 to 2 and 2 to 1 for non-thoracic and thoracic radiologists’with the subtlety 3 to subtlety 2 being significant (P=0.014) for non thoracic radiologists while thoracic radiologists’ demonstrated a decrease but no transitions between subtlety were significant. The most noticeable, and interesting, effect was with the thoracic radiologists’ with the average means of subtlety 2 and 1 being almost the same and closely comparable to level 3. Conclusion: Results from this study indicate that expertise in chest radiology does significantly impact upon the sensitivity of radiologists in detecting pulmonary lesions of varying subtlety. Thoracic radiologists had a consistently higher sensitivity with subtle, very subtle and extremely subtle nodules.

Paper Details

Date Published: 24 March 2016
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 9787, Medical Imaging 2016: Image Perception, Observer Performance, and Technology Assessment, 97870K (24 March 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2217886
Show Author Affiliations
John W. Robinson, The Univ. of Sydney (Australia)
Patrick C. Brennan, The Univ. of Sydney (Australia)
Claudia Mello-Thoms, The Univ. of Sydney (Australia)
Sarah J. Lewis, The Univ. of Sydney (Australia)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9787:
Medical Imaging 2016: Image Perception, Observer Performance, and Technology Assessment
Craig K. Abbey; Matthew A. Kupinski, Editor(s)

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