For patients' sake, radiology reports must be clear

Tuesday, November 29 | 11:20 a.m.-11:30 a.m. | SSG07-06 | Room S402AB
With more and more patients reading their radiology reports, radiologists need to work on communicating exam results more clearly and effectively, according to this scientific presentation.

Senior author Dr. Andrew Gunn said he noticed early on in his radiology training that radiologists often used variable language in describing their findings.

"Many times, physicians would call us asking for explanations of terms or abbreviations used in the report," he told "This made me very interested in how the language we use in our reports is interpreted by our referring physicians. Ultimately, we create reports to transmit information, but if that is not received by the end reader of the report in the manner in which it was intended, critical information could be lost."

Patients are also increasingly gaining access to and reading their own radiology reports. In a study performed while Gunn was at Washington University's Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology in St. Louis, the researchers focused on how patients interpret the language used in radiology reports.

"This adds a layer of complexity in report construction that hasn't been encountered previously," said Gunn, who is now at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

After surveying patients and radiologists, the group found that patients' perceptions of terminology in radiology reports often differed with those of radiologists. As a result, radiologists should recognize that patients may not interpret the phrases used in radiology reports in the same manner as they might interpret them, Gunn said.

"Second, as a corollary, radiologists should actively try to reduce ambiguity in their reports whenever possible," he said.

Avoid any of your own misunderstandings on this topic by sitting in on this Tuesday morning talk.

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