Spine. 1995 May; 20(10): 1147-53; discussion 1154.
Interpretation of abnormal lumbosacral spine radiographs. A test comparing students, clinicians, radiology residents, and radiologists in medicine and chiropractic.
Department of Radiology, University of California, Medical Center, San Diego, USA.
STUDY DESIGN. Controlled comparison of radiographic interpretive performance based on training and experience. OBJECTIVES. This study compared each of these groups in medicine and chiropractic by testing abilities to interpret abnormal plain film radiographs of the lumbosacral spine and pelvis. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA. Low back pain is a common and costly problem that is evaluated and treated primarily by medical physicians, orthopedists, and chiropractors. Although radiology is used extensively in patients with low back pain, the radiographic interpretations of students, clinicians, radiology residents, and radiologists have never been compared. METHODS. Four hundred ninety-six eligible volunteers from nine target groups completed a test of radiographic interpretation consisting of nineteen cases with clinically important radiographic findings. The nine groups included 22 medical students, 183 chiropractic students, 27 medical radiology residents, 13 chiropractic radiology residents, 66 medical clinicians (including 12 general practice physicians, 25 orthopedic surgeons, 21 orthopedic residents, and 8 rheumatologists), 46 chiropractic clinicians, 48 general medical radiologists, 55 chiropractic radiologists, and 36 skeletal radiologists and fellows. RESULTS. The test established a high level of internal consistency reliability (0.880) and revealed that, in the interpretation of abnormal plain film radiographs of the lumbosacral spine and pelvis, significant differences were found among professional groups (P < 0.0001). Post hoc tests (P < 0.05) revealed that skeletal radiologists achieved significantly higher test results than did all other medical groups; that the test results of general medical radiologists and medical radiology residents was significantly higher than those of medical clinicians; that test results of medical students was significantly poorer than that of all other medical groups; that the performance of chiropractic radiologists and chiropractic radiology residents was significantly higher than that of chiropractic clinicians and chiropractic students; that no significant differences was revealed in the mean values of performance of chiropractic clinicians and chiropractic students; that the test results of chiropractic radiologists, chiropractic radiology residents, and chiropractic students was significantly higher than that of the corresponding medical categories (general medical radiologists, medical radiology residents, and medical students, respectively); that no significant difference in test results was identified between chiropractic radiologists and skeletal radiologists or between chiropractic and medical clinicians; and that the length of time in practice for clinicians and radiologists was not a significant factor in the test results. CONCLUSIONS. These data demonstrate a substantial increase in test results of all radiologists and radiology residents when compared to students and clinicians in both medicine and chiropractic related to the interpretation of abnormal radiographs of the lumbosacral spine and pelvis. Furthermore, the study reinforces the need for radiologic specialists to reduce missed diagnoses, misdiagnoses, and medicolegal complications.