Zafar Sajjad


Multivariate Analysis of Radiologists’ Usage of Phrases that Convey Diagnostic Certainty


Ronilda Lacson MD PhD, Eseosa Odigie, Aijia Wang MPH, Neena Kapoor MD, Atul Shinagare MD, Giles Boland MD and Ramin Khorasani MD, MPH

Academic Radiology, 2019-09-01, Volume 26, Issue 9, Pages 1229-1234, Copyright © 2018 The Association of University Radiologists


Rationale and Objectives

To quantify the use of Diagnostic Certainty Phrases (DCP) in radiology reports, including DCPs with good agreement (including “diagnostic of,” “unlikely” and “represents”) in connoting degree of certainty between providers based on previous studies; and to assess whether modality, presence of a trainee, radiologic subspecialty, and individual radiologists are associated with the usage of DCPs with good agreement.


Materials and Methods

This retrospective, IRB-approved study was conducted at an academic medical center. Radiology reports that contain DCPs were identified using information retrieval from all reports generated in 2016, excluding mammograms, obstetrical ultrasound, bone densitometry, and interventional studies. DCPs connoting good agreement were further noted. Of the reports that contained DCPs, a two-level hierarchical generalized linear model with attending as the level-two variable was performed comparing the use of DCP with good agreement while considering trainee involvement, modality, and subspecialty.



A total of 159,151 reports out of 370,881 were found to have at least one DCP (43%). Reports of CT scans had the most number of DCP (68% of all CT reports). Breast and abdomen subspecialties were associated with use of DCP with good agreement . There was significant variation in use of DCP with good agreement between physicians that could not be explained by modality, trainee presence, and subspecialty.



Phrases to convey diagnostic certainty were commonly used in radiology reports. There is wide variation in usage of DCP with good agreement. Future interventions to reduce variation in use of DCPs may reduce ambiguity and improve quality of radiology reports.




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