BACKGROUND: Primary care requests for radiographs of the lumbar spine have come under increasing scrutiny. Guidelines aiming to reduce unnecessary radiographs by limiting referrals to patients at high risk of serious disease have been widely distributed. Trial evidence suggests that guidelines can reduce radiography referrals. It is not clear whether this reduction has been achieved in routine practice. AIM: This study, using routine data, was conducted to measure trends in pnmary care referrals for lumbar spine radiography at two hospitals between 1994 and 1999. DESIGN OF STUDY: Analysis of primary care requests for lumbar spine radiography from computerised records. SETTING: Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge (1 July 1994 to 30 June 1999), and Ipswich General Hospital (1 July 1995 to 30 June 1999), United Kingdom. METHOD: All primary care requests for lumbar radiography were identified electronically from computerised information systems. A random sample of 2100 radiography reports were classified according to clinical importance. These classifications were used to examine whether the proportion of radiographs demonstrating potentially more serious findings had increased between 1994 and 1999. RESULTS: There was no evidence that primary care referrals for radiography of the lumbar spine had decreased between 1994 and 1999 at either hospital. General practitioners did not progressively refer more high-risk patients for lumbar radiography. Only a small proportion of patients had important radiographic findings that might warrant specialist referral or specific therapy. CONCLUSION: The implementation of diagnostic guidelines offers much to the NHS. However in these two hospitals, the reduction in radiograph utilisation evident in trials was not achieved. Guideline development is a resource intensive process; distribution must be supported by more effective implementation strategies.
BACKGROUND. The Royal College of Radiologists' guidelines aim to encourage more appropriate use of diagnostic radiology and so reduce the use of clinically unhelpful x-ray examinations. AIM. The object of this study was to conduct a randomized controlled trial of the introduction of the guidelines into general practice. METHOD. A total of 62 practices (170 general practitioners) referring patients to St George's Hospital, London for diagnostic radiology were randomly allocated into two groups. Guidelines were sent to the 30 practices in the intervention group. Radiological referral patterns were compared in both groups before and after the introduction of guidelines. RESULTS. Practices which had received guidelines requested significantly fewer examinations of the spine, and made a significantly higher proportion of requests which conformed to the guidelines compared with practices which had not received the guidelines. There were no significant differences in the proportion of forms giving physical findings or in the proportion of positive findings at radiology. CONCLUSION. Introduction of guidelines can influence general practitioners' radiological referrals in the short term. Wider use of guidelines might help to reduce unnecessary irradiation of patients.
Knee pain is the commonest pain complaint amongst older adults in general practice. General Practitioners (GPs) may use x rays when managing knee pain, but little information exists regarding this process. Our objectives, therefore, were to describe the information GPs provide when ordering knee radiographs in older people, to assess the association between a clinical diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA) and the presence of radiographic knee OA, and to investigate the clinical content of the corresponding radiologists' report.
A cross sectional study of GP requests for knee radiographs and their matched radiologists' reports from a local radiology department. Cases, aged over 40, were identified during an 11-week period. The clinical content of the GPs' requests and radiologists' reports was analysed. Associations of radiologists' reporting of i) osteoarthritis, ii) degenerative disease and iii) individual radiographic features of OA, with patient characteristics and clinical details on the GPs' requests, were assessed.
The study identified 136 cases with x ray requests from 79 GPs and 11 reporting radiologists. OA was identified clinically in 19 (14%) of the requests, and queried in another 31 (23%). The main clinical descriptor was pain in 119 cases (88%). Radiologists' reported OA in 22% of cases, and the features of OA were mentioned in 63%. Variation in reporting existed between radiologists. The commonest description was joint space narrowing in 52 reports (38%). There was an apparent although non significant increase in the reporting of knee OA when the GP had diagnosed or queried it (OR 1.95; 95% CI 0.76, 5.00).
The features of radiographic OA are commonly reported in those patients over 40 whom GPs send for x ray. If OA is clinically suspected, radiologists appear to be more likely to report its presence. Further research into alternative models of referral and reporting might identify a more appropriate imaging policy in knee disorders for primary care.
Radiologists at a large teaching hospital felt that plain radiograph imaging was being performed inappropriately for patients admitted with acute abdominal pain. They felt requests were either not indicated or CT was a more appropriate first line radiological investigation in certain circumstances.
An audit was performed looking at plain radiograph imaging requests for emergency admissions under general surgery, using Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) guidelines as the standard. The audit revealed that only 80% of plain radiograph requests met RCR guidelines. It also showed that 33% of acute admissions undergoing plain radiograph imaging proceeded to CT within forty-eight hours. These findings lead to the development of a plain radiograph algorithm. This aimed to improve plain radiograph imaging requests and to increase the use of CT as an earlier or first line radiological investigation where appropriate.
Outcome of discussion at local and regional clinical governance meetings was that earlier CT would be useful in specific circumstances. The algorithm provides a framework for appropriately expediting CT in patients presenting with acute abdominal pain where bowel obstruction or perforation was suspected. However, consultant surgeons felt that in patients presenting with acute abdominal pain, the plain abdominal radiograph often demonstrates findings associated with specific diagnoses not specifically indicated by RCR guidelines. If RCR guidelines for plain radiograph imaging are broadened, radiological interpretation would examine for a broader range of findings and, when combined with other clinical information, diagnoses can be made, thus avoiding the need for further imaging or explorative surgery.
Radiograph; abdominal pain; algorithm; Royal College Radiologists guidelines
With the introduction of the Ionising Radiation (Medical Exposure) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 (IRMER) the medical practitioner faces greater accountability when requesting radiological investigations. The referrer (usually a doctor or dentist) must supply sufficient medical data to justify radiation exposure to a patient. These regulations can lead to criminal prosecution if breached. Our objectives were to identify the level of unjustified requests for plain abdominal radiography among A&E doctors and whether there is a statistically significant difference in the justification of request between doctors of differing experience. We reviewed and prepared statistical analysis of 100 A&E request forms for plain abdominal radiography. Royal College of Radiologist Guidelines were used as a "Gold standard" for justification of the investigation. A&E doctors of less than six months experience are at greater risk of breaching these regulations when requesting plain abdominal films, when compared to more experienced doctors. This is a serious issue which should be addressed at undergraduate and pre-registration level in addition to ongoing audit.
It has been suggested that changes to the training schemes of junior doctors and the increased pressure on emergency departments to manage their patients within a limited time might increase the number of unnecessary investigations performed on emergency admission patients. This, in turn, may lead to an increased number of investigations with normal results. In this study we try to analyse the role of the chest X-ray (CXR) as a diagnostic tool in patients presenting with acute abdominal pain.
PATIENTS AND METHODS
A retrospective study was performed of the request forms and results of all chest radiography performed on patients admitted on the emergency surgical intake with acute abdominal pain through utilisation of the prospec-tively maintained electronic radiology database. The indications were compared to the guidelines published by the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) which have been adopted as the standard of care.
A total of 334 chest X-rays were identified of which only 23 (7%) had new findings. Four (1%) patients had free gas under the diaphragm. Of the CXRs, 258 (77%) were reported normal whilst 53 (16%) had old changes which were described in their hospital records and previous radiographs. Of the CXRs with new findings, only 20 were clinically significant and, of these, four (1%) were surgically significant.
The majority of CXRs performed on emergency surgical admissions with abdominal pain are unnecessary. By obtaining a clear history, performing a thorough clinical examination and following the RCR guidelines most of the CXRs could be avoided. This would lead to less radiation exposure, reduce delays to diagnosis, and provide significant financial savings.
Chest radiograph; Acute abdomen
OBJECTIVE--To compare ultrasonography with intravenous urography in the investigation of adults with haematuria. DESIGN--Prospective study entailing the examination of all patients with both investigations concurrently. The investigations were performed independently on routine lists by different duty radiologists. Each was aware of the details of the request form but not of the findings of the other investigation. SETTING--Radiology department of a teaching hospital. PATIENTS--155 Consecutive adult patients (aged 18-93) referred from general practitioners and hospital outpatient clinics with a history of haematuria. FOLLOW UP--When results of both examinations proved normal no clinical or radiological follow up was sought. All abnormal findings of either investigation were correlated with results of subsequent imaging studies or operative findings. RESULTS--81 Patients (52%) had normal findings on urography and ultrasonography. Overall, the findings of ultrasonography concurred with those of urography in 144 cases (93%). Among the discrepant findings of the two investigations ultrasonography missed two ureteric calculi; one was in a non-dilated ureter, and in the other case ultrasonography detected the secondary ureteric dilatation. Ultrasound examination alone detected four bladder tumours not visible on urography with sizes ranging from 5 to 21 mm, representing one fifth of the 20 cystoscopically proved bladder tumours detected in the series. Ultrasonography detected all the 22 neoplastic lesions discovered in the study (20 bladder, two renal). Ultrasonography clarified the nature of renal masses evident in three urograms (simple cysts). CONCLUSIONS--Ultrasonography is a safe and accurate method of investigating the urinary tract in adults with haematuria. When combined with a single plain abdominal radiograph it proved to be superior to urography as the primary imaging study in this series. Ultrasonography should certainly be preferred to urography if cystoscopy is not planned. No urothelial tumours of the upper urinary tract were found in the series, reflecting their rarity. For those patients in whom ultrasonography and plain radiography have shown no abnormality and in whom cystoscopic appearances are normal urography would be advisable to exclude urothelial tumours of the upper urinary tract.
OBJECTIVE--To compare ultrasonography with intravenous urography for investigating adults with proved urinary tract infection. DESIGN--Prospective study of patients presenting consecutively for radiological investigation of urinary tract infection between October 1988 and December 1989. Both investigations were performed concurrently and performed independently on routine lists by different duty radiologists, each of whom knew the details on the request form but not the findings of the other investigation. SETTING--Radiology department of a teaching hospital. PATIENTS--158 Consecutive adults (89 women, 69 men; mean age 49.7 (range 18-83)) referred from general practitioners and hospital outpatient clinics with a history of proved urinary tract infection. INTERVENTIONS--Urography and ultrasonography performed concurrently. When both examinations gave normal findings no clinical or radiological follow up was sought. All abnormal findings detected with either investigation were confirmed by subsequent imaging studies or by operative procedures. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE--Accuracy of detection of abnormalities of urinary system by ultrasonography compared with urography. RESULTS--113 Patients (72%) had normal urographic and ultrasonic findings. Overall, ultrasonography concurred with the findings of urography in 149 (94%) patients, and when a single abdominal radiograph was included in the procedure, in 152 (96%). Ultrasonography missed only one important diagnosis, that of mild papillary necrosis in normal sized kidneys in a diabetic patient. It detected one early bladder tumour not visible on urography and was able to clarify the nature of renal masses (simple cysts) evident on three urograms. CONCLUSION--Ultrasonography provides a safe and accurate method of imaging the urinary tract in adults with infection. Combined with a plain abdominal radiograph, it should replace urography as the initial imaging investigation in these patients. Major savings would result from adopting this policy, and the risks to patients from ionising radiation and intravenous contrast media would be appreciably reduced.
To evaluate the clinical and radiological outcomes of lumbar interbody fusion and its correlation with various factors (e.g., age, comorbidities, fusion level, bone quality) in patients over and under 65 years of age who underwent lumbar fusion surgery for degenerative lumbar disease.
One-hundred-thirty-three patients with lumbar degenerative disease underwent lumbar fusion surgery between June 2006 and June 2007 and were followed for more than one year. Forty-eight (36.1%) were older than 65 years of age (group A) and 85 (63.9%) were under 65 years of age (group B). Diagnosis, comorbidities, length of hospital stay, and perioperative complications were recorded. The analysis of clinical outcomes was based on the visual analogue scale (VAS). Radiological results were evaluated using plain radiographs. Clinical outcomes, radiological outcomes, length of hospital stay, and complication rates were analyzed in relation to lumbar fusion level, the number of comorbidities, bone mineral density (BMD), and age.
The mean age of the patients was 61.2 years (range, 33-86 years) and the mean BMD was -2.2 (range, -4.8 to -2.8). The mean length of hospital stay was 15.0 days (range, 5-60 days) and the mean follow-up was 23.0 months (range, 18-30 months). Eighty-five (64.0%) patients had more than one preoperative comorbidities. Perioperative complications occurred in 27 of 133 patients (20.3%). The incidence of overall complication was 22.9% in group A, and 18.8% in group B but there was no statistical difference between the two groups. The mean VAS scores for the back and leg were significantly decreased in both groups (p < 0.05), and bony fusion was achieved in 125 of 133 patients (94.0%). There was no significant difference in bony union rates between groups A and B (91.7% in group A vs. 95.3% in group B, p = 0.398). In group A, perioperative complications were more common with the increase in fusion level (p = 0.027). Perioperative complications in both groups A (p = 0.035) and B (p = 0.044) increased with an increasing number of comorbidities.
Elderly patients with comorbidities are at a high risk for complications and adverse outcomes after lumbar spine surgery. In our study, clinical outcomes, fusion rates, and perioperative complication rates in older patients were comparable with those in younger populations. The number of comorbidities and the extent of fusion level were significant factors in predicting the occurrence of postoperative complications. However, proper perioperative general supportive care with a thorough fusion strategy during the operation could improve the overall postoperative outcomes in lumbar fusion surgery for elderly patients.
Elderly patients; Lumbar interbody fusion; Comorbidities; Complications
The biannual turnover of house surgeons has long been dreaded by paramedical staff because of fears of increased workloads generated by ‘untrained’ junior doctors. The aim of this study was to address this issue by examining both the quantity and quality of requests made for emergency abdominal radiographs made by ‘experienced’ house surgeons during the month of July and by the ‘novices’ during August.
PATIENTS AND METHODS
All adult patients undergoing abdominal radiography (AXR) following admission as emergencies via the surgical directorate with abdominal signs were identified prospectively. The reports of the AXRs were reviewed to determine the total number of requests and the number of positive findings for the two groups. In addition, the hand-written request forms were recovered to determine the suitability of the requests according to nationally-accepted guidelines produced by the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR).
During the study period, a total of 252 radiographs were performed consisting of 98 in July and 154 in August. The number of unreported films in each month were similar at 11 (11.2%) and 16 (10.4%), respectively, leaving 87 reported radiographs in July and 138 in August. There was no difference in the number of radiographs with positive findings (excluding degenerative spinal disease) for July (n = 19; 22%) and August (n = 33; 24%). Of the 225 reported films, RCR guidelines were followed in only 73 (32%) of 225 cases. When guidelines were adhered to, positive findings were identified in 56 (76.7%) of 73 cases whereas when guidelines were not followed positive findings were seen in only 13/139 (8.9%) of AXRs.
We have demonstrated that the popular myth of the ‘August syndrome’ is unsubstantiated at least using the surrogate marker of abdominal radiograph requests. The worrying finding of a high number of unacceptable indications for the performance of abdominal radiographs deserves urgent attention both in terms of its financial implications and with regards reducing radiation exposure. A programme of education is proposed to emphasise the RCR guidelines with re-audit to assess adherence to the guidelines.
Abdominal radiograph; Guidelines; Acute abdominal pain
OBJECTIVE--To assess the efficacy of barium meal examinations in managing patients with dyspepsia in general practice. DESIGN--Prospective study by questionnaires completed by general practitioners before and within three to six months after the barium meal examination. Information was requested about the patients' symptoms, current treatment, reason for requesting the examination, and the working diagnosis, including degree of certainty and, after the examination, about any change in diagnosis, diagnostic confidence, or management and to determine whether the examination was judged to be helpful or not. SETTING--Inner city health district. PATIENTS--133 Patients with dyspepsia referred by general practitioners for outpatient barium meal examination, 31 of whom failed to attend for the examination, or refused it on arrival, or did not have fully completed questionnaires. Two patients were not available for follow up. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Prevalence of radiological abnormalities and the influence of the examination result on management, particularly changes in drug treatment. RESULTS--Fully completed pairs of questionnaires were available for 100 patients, 58 of whom were aged below 50. Most of the barium meal reports (64) were to confirm the clinical diagnosis; only 22 were to exclude serious disease. Ninety nine patients were already receiving treatment, with 39 taking an H2 receptor antagonist. Fifty eight barium meal examinations showed abnormalities (31 major abnormalities); there were no cancers and in only 18 patients was the working diagnosis changed as a result of the findings. Although the barium meal result increased management confidence (63 patients) and allayed patients' anxiety (46), changes in management attributed directly to the examination occurred in only 22 patients. Management changes were minor, usually comprising interchange of antacids and H2 receptor antagonists. CONCLUSIONS--Young patients (aged below 50) with dyspepsia are still being overinvestigated. Although barium meal examination improves diagnostic confidence and allays patients' anxiety, fully utilising communication skills at the initial consultation might allay anxiety more economically.
OBJECTIVE--To evaluate whether waiting time in accident and emergency (A&E) departments is shortened when experienced nurses request peripheral limb radiographs before a patient is assessed by a doctor. DESIGN--Simultaneous prospective trial in four A&E departments in the United Kingdom with doctors and nurses requesting radiographs; 2000 patients were randomly allocated to either a "Nurse First" or "Doctor First" category. SUBJECTS--Patients older than 5 years presenting with recent peripheral limb injuries. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Timing of the various stages of a patient's passage through the A&E department comparing the orthodox route with a group of patients in whom an experienced A&E nurse had the option of requesting a radiograph before a medical assessment. RESULTS--There was a significant reduction in the time spent in A&E when no radiograph was requested (P << 0.001). The mean time saved in the "Doctor First" (DF) group was 51 min, and in the "Nurse First" (NF) group 36 min. For those who were sent for an x ray 14 min was saved by getting the patient to see the nurse first. However, because the overall referral rate for x rays was greater in the NF group, (78% of patients compared with 74% of the DF group, a significant 4% increase (P = 0.05) this potential benefit was largely lost. Overall the average waiting time in the DF group of 92.5 min (95% confidence interval: 89.2 to 96.1 min) was reduced to 88.5 min (95% CI:85.2 to 91.8 min) in the NF group, a non-significant saving of 4 min. There was no overall difference between the proportion of relevant abnormalities reported by the radiologists for the DF or NF groups (G2 = 0.739, 1df, P = 0.30); however, there was a significant association between the number of relevant abnormalities reported by the radiologists and the different hospitals (G2 = 9.7626, 3df, P = 0.02). Hospital C had the highest abnormality rate reported by the radiologists in both the DF (45%) and the NF (51%) groups. The most time saved in A&E was in the DF category when comparing those who did not have an x ray [58 (CI 54-63) min] with those who did [109 (CI 104-114) min], a saving of 51 min. The corresponding time saved in the NF category between those who did not have an x ray [59 (CI 53-65) min] and those who did [95 (CI 91-99) min] was 36 min. CONCLUSIONS--14 min can be saved by getting the patient to see the nurse first; however, because nurses in three out of four hospitals requested more radiological examinations than doctors, overall only 4 min waiting time was saved when peripheral limb radiographs were requested by nurses. The findings are somewhat against expectations but do identify that specific training and constant monitoring is essential if nurses are to request peripheral limb radiographs, as reflected in hospital C results.
This study used a postal survey to assess the current use of small bowel imaging investigations for Crohn’s disease within National Health Service (NHS) radiological practice and to gauge gastroenterological referral patterns.
Similar questionnaires were posted to departments of radiology (n = 240) and gastroenterology (n = 254) identified, by the databases of the Royal College of Radiologists and British Society of Gastroenterologists. Questionnaires enquired about the use of small bowel imaging in the assessment of Crohn’s disease. In particular, questionnaires described clinical scenarios including first diagnosis, disease staging and assessment of suspected extraluminal complications, obstruction and disease flare. The data were stratified according to patient age.
63 (27%) departments of radiology (20 in teaching hospitals and 43 in district general hospitals (DGHs)) and 73 (29%) departments of gastroenterology replied. These departments were in 119 institutions. Of the 63 departments of radiology, 55 (90%) routinely performed barium follow-though (BaFT), 50 (80%) CT, 29 (46%) small bowel ultrasound (SbUS) and 24 (38%) small bowel MRI. BaFT was the most commonly used investigation across all age groups and indications. SbUS was used mostly for patients younger than 40 years of age with low index of clinical suspicion for Crohn’s disease (in 44% of radiology departments (28/63)). MRI was most frequently used in patients under 20 years of age for staging new disease (in 27% of radiology departments (17/63)) or in whom obstruction was suspected (in 29% of radiology departments (18/63)). CT was preferred for suspected extraluminal complications or obstruction (in 73% (46/63) and 46% (29/63) of radiology departments, respectively). Gastroenterological referrals largely concurred with the imaging modalities chosen by radiologists, although gastroenterologists were less likely to request SbUS and MRI.
BaFT remains the mainstay investigation for luminal small bowel Crohn’s disease, with CT dominating for suspected extraluminal complications. There has been only moderate dissemination of the use of MRI and SbUS.
The aims of this study were to:  Assess the number of patients with suspected knee osteoarthritis that underwent repeat weight-bearing(WB) knee radiographs in the orthopaedic clinic following initial non-WB radiograph requested by their general practitioner (GP).  Confirm whether repeating WB knee views changed radiology reports.  Determine the number of London trusts with protocols for routinely performing WB views. A Retrospective cohort study of 1968 patients aged >40 years referred to a London teaching hospital for knee radiographs over 12 months. Radiographs were identified as WB/non-WB. Subsequent repeat WB views performed in those that went on to have an orthopaedic consultation were also documented. A consultant musculoskeletal radiologist reported both images. A proforma containing a likert scale of severity for commonly reported abnormalities in knee osteoarthritis and criteria from the Kellgren and Lawrence scale was used for reporting. London NHS Trusts were surveyed to identify if protocols were in place for performing WB views. A total of 1,968 patients underwent knee radiographs, of which 1922 (97.7%) had initial non-WB radiographs. Of the 56 patients in this group that underwent required repeat WB radiographs, joint space narrowing was reported as more severe on WB versus non-WB radiographs (p = 0.035). Only 54% of departments routinely performed WB radiographs. Few patients (2.3%) referred by GPs have WB radiographs requested. Some of those referred for a specialist opinion required repeat WB views. Nearly half of London hospitals do not routinely perform WB radiographs. This represents a significant financial burden to the NHS, increased radiation exposure and wasted patient/clinician time. We propose that all GP requested knee radiographs be performed as WB unless otherwise stated.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/2193-1801-3-707) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Weight bearing; Knee radiograph; Knee osteoarthritis
OBJECTIVES—To investigate the relation with a case-control study between symptomatic osteochondrosis or spondylosis of the lumbar spine and cumulative occupational exposure to lifting or carrying and to working postures with extreme forward bending.
METHODS—From two practices and four clinics were recruited 229 male patients with radiographically confirmed osteochondrosis or spondylosis of the lumbar spine associated with chronic complaints. Of these 135 had additionally had acute lumbar disc herniation. A total of 197 control subjects was recruited: 107 subjects with anamnestic exclusion of lumbar spine disease were drawn as a random population control group and 90 patients admitted to hospital for urolithiasis who had no osteochondrosis or spondylosis of the lumbar spine radiographically were recruited as a hospital based control group. Data were gathered in a structured personal interview and analysed using logistic regression to control for age, region, nationality, and other diseases affecting the lumbar spine. To calculate cumulative forces to the lumbar spine over the entire working life, the Mainz-Dortmund dose model (MDD), which is based on an overproportional weighting of the lumbar disc compression force relative to the respective duration of the lifting process was applied with modifications: any objects weighing ⩾5 kg were included in the calculation and no minimum daily exposure limits were established. Calculation of forces to the lumbar spine was based on self reported estimates of occupational lifting, trunk flexion, and duration.
RESULTS—For a lumbar spine dose >9×106 Nh (Newton×hours), the risk of having radiographically confirmed osteochondrosis or spondylosis of the lumbar spine as measured by the odds ratio (OR) was 8.5 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 4.1 to 17.5) compared with subjects with a load of 0 Nh. To avoid differential bias, forces to the lumbar spine were also calculated on the basis of an internal job exposure matrix based on the control subjects' exposure assessments for their respective job groups. Although ORs were lower with this approach, they remained significant.
CONCLUSIONS—The calculation of the sum of forces to the lumbar spine is a useful tool for risk assessment for symptomatic osteochondrosis or spondylosis of the lumbar spine. The results suggest that cumulative occupational exposure to lifting or carrying and extreme forward bending increases the risk for developing symptomatic osteochondrosis or spondylosis of the lumbar spine.
Keywords: case-control study; physical work load; lumbar osteochondrosis; lumbar spondylosis
Unlike hospital-based clinicians, general practitioners (GPs) lack direct contact with radiologists, and the radiology report is usually the sole method of communication from the radiologist to the GP. It is important to gain feedback regarding what GPs perceive as a good-quality radiology report, especially in the current climate of competition for provision of radiology services. The aims of this study are to determine the level of GP satisfaction with radiology reports, their perception of optimum report content and their preferences regarding the level of detail and report format. A questionnaire was sent to 100 GPs referring to our Trust for radiology services. GPs were generally satisfied with the content and clarity of reports that they receive, and gave suggestions on how reports could be improved. The majority of GPs were unfamiliar with the normal size ranges of frequently measured anatomical structures. Radiologists' recommendations for further treatment, referral and non-radiological investigation were viewed as valuable report components. When asked to rank preferences for ultrasound reports for the same patient with differing formats and levels of detail, GPs favoured detailed reports in a tabulated format. In conclusion, the majority of GPs like detailed reports and value the radiologist's opinion outside the remit of imaging when suggesting further patient management. Reporting the size of a structure without explanation of its significance can potentially cause confusion. It is important to know if GPs are satisfied with the radiology reports they receive so that we can uphold high communication standards and ultimately improve patient care.
In the treatment of multilevel degenerative disorders of the lumbar spine, spondylodesis plays a controversial role. Most patients can be treated conservatively with success. Multilevel lumbar fusion with instrumentation is associated with severe complications like failed back surgery syndrome, implant failure, and adjacent segment disease (ASD). This retrospective study examines the records of 70 elderly patients with degenerative changes or instability of the lumbar spine treated between 2002 and 2007 with spondylodesis of more than two segments. Sixty-four patients were included; 5 patients had died and one patient was lost to follow-up. We evaluated complications, clinical/radiological outcomes, and success of fusion. Flexion-extension and standing X-rays in two planes, MRI, and/or CT scans were obtained pre-operatively. Patients were assessed clinically using the Oswestry disability index (ODI) and a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). Surgery performed was dorsolateral fusion (46.9%) or dorsal fusion with anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF; 53.1%). Additional decompression was carried out in 37.5% of patients. Mean follow-up was 29.4±5.4 months. Average patient age was 64.7±4.3 years. Clinical outcomes were not satisfactory for all patients. VAS scores improved from 8.6±1.3 to 5.6±3.0 pre- to post-operatively, without statistical significance. ODI was also not significantly improved (56.1±22.3 pre- and 45.1±26.4 post-operatively). Successful fusion, defined as adequate bone mass with trabeculation at the facets and transverse processes or in the intervertebral segments, did not correlate with good clinical outcomes. Thirty-five of 64 patients (54%) showed signs of pedicle screw loosening, especially of the screws at S1. However, only 7 of these 35 (20%) complained of corresponding back pain. Revision surgery was required in 24 of 64 patients (38%). Of these, indications were adjacent segment disease (16 cases), pedicle screw loosening (7 cases), and infection (one case). At follow-up of 29.4 months, patients with radiographic ASD had worse ODI scores than patients without (54.7 vs. 36.6; P<0.001). Multilevel fusion for degenerative disease still has a high rate of complications, up to 50%. The problem of adjacent segment disease after fusion surgery has not yet been solved. This study underscores the need for strict indication guidelines to perform lumbar spine fusion of more than two levels.
lumbar spine; multilevel fusion; complication; degenerative disease; adjacent segment disease; implant loosening; topping off.
Objectives: To evaluate the effect of formal radiological reporting of all emergency department (ED) radiographs on clinical practice and patient outcome, and to consider whether a selective reporting policy might prove safe and effective.
Methods: All radiographs taken in a single ED over a six month period were prospectively studied simultaneously in both the emergency and radiology departments to detect cases where a radiograph that was considered normal by ED staff was then reported as abnormal by the reporting radiologist. Whenever such a discrepancy occurred the patient's records were scrutinised to ascertain the source of the discrepancy, with a gold standard interpretation derived from senior clinical review and additional investigations where indicated. The clinical impact of the radiologist's formal report was then assessed. Accuracy of interpretation was considered in relation to the grade of ED staff and the radiographic examination obtained.
Results: During the study period, 19 468 new patient attendances to the ED generated 11 749 radiographic examinations. Discrepancies were detected in 175 patients (1.5% of all radiographic examinations). Of these, 136 (1.2%) were subsequently shown to have been incorrectly interpreted in the ED (ED false negatives), with 40 patients (0.3%) undergoing a change in management as a result. In the remaining 39 the ED interpretation was judged to be correct (radiology false positives), with 16 patients undergoing further investigations or visits to the ED to confirm this.
Conclusions: The formal reporting of ED radiographs by the radiology department detects a number of clinically important abnormalities that have been overlooked. However, this formal reporting also generates a number of incorrect interpretations that may lead to further unnecessary investigations. Some groups of ED radiographs (such as those interpreted by an ED consultant and films of the fingers and toes) may not require formal radiological reporting. The adoption of a selective reporting policy may reduce the reporting workload of the radiology department without compromising patient care.
OBJECTIVE: To, assess the emergency department use of cervical spine radiography for alert, stable adult trauma patients in terms of utilization, yield for injury and variation in practices among hospitals and physicians. DESIGN: Retrospective survey of health records. SETTING: Emergency departments of 6 teaching and 2 community hospitals in Ontario and British Columbia. PATIENTS: Consecutive alert, stable adult trauma patients seen with potential cervical spine injury between July 1, 1994, and June 30, 1995. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Total number of eligible patients, referral for cervical spine radiography (overall, by hospital and by physician), presence of cervical spine injury, patient characteristics and hospitals associated with use of radiography. RESULTS: Of 6855 eligible patients, cervical spine radiography was ordered for 3979 (58.0%). Only 60 (0.9%) patients were found to have an acute cervical spine injury (fracture, dislocation or ligamentous instability); 98.5% of the radiographic films were negative for any significant abnormality. The demographic and clinical characteristics of the patients were similar across the 8 hospitals, and no cervical spine injuries were missed. Significant variation was found among the 8 hospitals in the rate of ordering radiography (p < 0.0001), from a low of 37.0% to a high of 72.5%. After possible differences in case severity and patient characteristics at each hospital were controlled for, logistic regression analysis revealed that 6 of the hospitals were significantly associated with the use of radiography. At 7 hospitals, there was significant variation in the rate of ordering radiography among the attending emergency physicians (p < 0.05), from a low of 15.6% to a high of 91.5%. CONCLUSIONS: Despite considerable variation among institutions and individual physicians in the ordering of cervical spine radiography for alert, stable trauma patients with similar characteristics, no cervical spine injuries were missed. The number of radiographic films showing signs of abnormality was extremely low at all hospitals. The findings suggest that cervical spine radiography could be used more efficiently, possibly with the help of a clinical decision rule.
Retrospective review of imaging data from a clinical trial.
To compare the interpretation of lumbar spine magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) by clinical spine specialists and radiologists in patients with lumbar disc herniation.
Summary of Background Data
MRI is the imaging modality of choice for evaluation of the lumbar spine in patients with suspected lumbar disc herniation. Guidelines provide standardization of terms to more consistently describe disc herniation. The extent to which these guidelines are being followed in clinical practice is unknown.
We abstracted data from radiology reports from patients with lumbar intervertebral disc herniation enrolled in the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial. We evaluated the frequency with which morphology (e.g., protrusions, extrusions, or sequestrations) was reported as per guidelines and when present we compared the morphology ratings to those of clinicians who completed a structured data form as part of the trial. We assessed agreement using percent agreement and the κ statistic.
There were 396 patients with sufficient data to analyze. Excellent agreement was observed between clinician and radiologist on the presence and level of herniation (93.4%), with 3.3% showing disagreement regarding level, of which a third could be explained by the presence of a transitional vertebra. In 3.3% of the cases in which the clinician reported a herniation (protrusion, extrusion, or sequestration), the radiologist reported no herniation on the MRI.
The radiology reports did not clearly describe morphology in 42.2% of cases. In the 214 cases with clear morphologic descriptions, agreement was fair (κ = 0.24) and the disagreement was asymmetric (Bowker’s test of symmetry P < 0.0001) with clinicians more often rating more abnormal morphologic categories. Agreement on axial location of the herniation was excellent (κ = 0.81). There was disagreement between left or right side in only 3.3% of cases (κ = 0.93).
Radiology reports frequently fail to provide sufficient detail to describe disc herniation morphology. Agreement between MRI readings by clinical spine specialists and radiologists was excellent when comparing herniation vertebral level and location within level, but only fair comparing herniation morphology.
herniated disc; MRI; SPORT; reliability; imaging
The rate of diagnosis of radiologically significant abnormalities in outpatients following requests of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and spine by general practitioners was compared with the rate following MRI scan requests by hospital clinicians. A similar rate of significant pathology was diagnosed in both groups in both the brain and the spine. Under carefully controlled conditions, open-access MRI scanning of the brain and spine can contribute to effective patient management.
Aims—(1) To establish whether
gastroenterologists wish to train in abdominal ultrasound according to
the Royal College of Radiologists' document,
Guidance for the training in ultrasound of medical
non-radiologists. (2) To determine whether the ultrasound workload generated by gastroenterologists differs from that by other clinicians.
Methods—A postal questionnaire was
sent to all 278gastroenterology trainees. The indications and findings
of 100consecutive gastroenterologist requested scans were compared
with 100 scans requested sequentially by other clinicians through a teaching hospital radiology department.
Results—82% of the survey forms
were returned. 77% of trainees wished to train in abdominal ultrasound
and 68% were prepared to train in the manner outlined in the guideline
document. However, 86% felt that they would ideally prefer not to
assess renal or pelvic pathology, restricting to hepatobiliary
diagnosis only. 73% of trainees did not anticipate that a further scan
by a radiologist would be required. Comparison of gastroenterology scans with those requested by other clinicians revealed a relative excess of hepatobiliary indications and findings, and a notable paucity
of renal and pelvic pathology in gastroenterology practice.
Conclusions—There is general
interest in abdominal ultrasound training among gastroenterology
trainees and broad acceptance of the guideline document. However, most
trainees perceive a focus of training restricted to hepatobiliary
disease to be most appropriate. The case mix study provides support for
this viewpoint. It is suggested that a more focused ultrasound training
for gastroenterologists be considered.
gastroenterology; training; ultrasound
The aim of this study was to explore patients' perceptions of the role of the radiologist in their care.
The questionnaire used was designed in conjunction with a psychologist who had an interest in oncology, and piloted. The final questionnaires were distributed to patients attending the breast clinic at St James's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland, from 1 March to 1 July 2011. Patients requiring imaging (mammography and/or ultrasound) were asked to complete the same questionnaire again after imaging procedures were performed. Paired t-tests were used to assess for changes in parameters, including ranking of members of the breast care team in order of perceived importance and levels of anxiety pre and post consultation with the radiologist.
306 patients were recruited. 76% of patients thought that radiologists were radiographers and only 14% knew that radiologists were medical doctors. Nearly 40% of patients did not consider that radiologists had a role to play in their care. There was no statistically significant difference in the ranking of team members pre and post consultation. There was a significant improvement in patient anxiety levels after consultation with the breast radiologist, which is likely to be due to the patient learning the outcome of tests performed.
There is a lack of awareness amongst patients and amongst our colleagues in paramedical disciplines regarding the roles and responsibilities of the modern radiologist.
Advances in knowledge
Radiology must act to increase public awareness so that future changes in the health service will reflect the scope and importance of the speciality.
OBJECTIVE--To compare the process and outcome of "primary care" consultations undertaken by senior house officers, registrars, and general practitioners in an accident and emergency department. DESIGN--Prospective, controlled intervention study. SETTING--A busy, inner city accident and emergency department in south London. SUBJECTS--Patients treated during a stratified random sample of 419 three hour sessions between June 1989 and May 1990 assessed at nurse triage as presenting with problems that could be treated in a primary care setting. 1702 of these patients were treated by sessionally employed local general practitioners, 2382 by senior house officers, and 557 by registrars. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Process variables: laboratory and radiographic investigations, prescriptions, and referrals; outcome variables: results of investigations. RESULTS--Primary care consultations made by accident and emergency medical staff resulted in greater utilisation of investigative, outpatient, and specialist services than those made by general practitioners. For example, the odds ratios for patients receiving radiography were 2.78 (95% confidence interval 2.32 to 3.34) for senior house officer v general practitioner consultations and 2.37 (1.84 to 3.06) for registrars v general practitioners. For referral to hospital specialist on call teams or outpatient departments v discharge to the community the odds ratios were 2.88 (2.39 to 3.47) for senior house officers v general practitioners and 2.57 (1.98 to 3.35) for registrars v general practitioners. CONCLUSION--Employing general practitioners in accident and emergency departments to manage patients with primary care needs seems to result in reduced rates of investigations, prescriptions, and referrals. This suggests important benefits in terms of resource utilisation, but the impact on patient outcome and satisfaction needs to be considered further.
The development of multidisciplinary team meetings (MDTMs) for radiology and pathology is a burgeoning area that increasingly impacts on work processes in both of these departments. The aim of this study was to examine work processes and quantify the time demands on radiologists and pathologists associated with MDTM practices at a large teaching hospital. The observations reported in this paper reflect a general trend affecting hospitals and our conclusions will have relevance for others implementing clinical practice guidelines.
For one month, all work related to clinical meetings between pathology and radiology with clinical staff was documented and later analysed.
The number of meetings to which pathology and radiology contribute at a large university teaching hospital, ranges from two to eight per day, excluding grand rounds, and amounts to approximately 50 meetings per month for each department. For one month, over 300 h were spent by pathologists and radiologists on 81 meetings, where almost 1000 patients were discussed. For each meeting hour, there were, on average, 2.4 pathology hours and 2 radiology hours spent in preparation. Two to three meetings per week are conducted over a teleconferencing link. Average meeting time is 1 h. Preparation time per meeting ranges from 0.3 to 6 h for pathology, and 0.5 to 4 for radiology. The review process in preparation for meetings improves internal quality standards. Materials produced externally (for example imaging) can amount to almost 50% of the material to be reviewed on a single patient. The number of meetings per month has increased by 50% over the past two years. Further increase is expected in both the numbers and duration of meetings when scheduling issues are resolved. A changing trend in the management of referred patients with the development of MDTMs and the introduction of teleconferencing was noted.
Difficulties are being experienced by pathology and radiology departments participating fully in several multidisciplinary teams. Time spent at meetings, and in preparation for MDTMs is significant. Issues of timing and the coordination of materials to be reviewed are sometimes irreconcilable. The exchange of patient materials with outside institutions is a cause for concern when full data are not made available in a timely fashion. The process of preparation for meetings is having a positive influence on quality, but more resources are needed in pathology and radiology to realise the full benefits of multidisciplinary team working.