Graphic representation of clinical symptoms: a tool for improving detection of subtle fractures on foot radiographs

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Department of Radiology

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OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to assess changes in accuracy, degree of confidence, and evaluation time in radiography of subtle foot fractures when the text history is supplemented by a graphic indicating the site of pain.

MATERIALS AND METHODS. Radiographs from 226 foot examinations (three views), including 126 examinations showing one subtle fracture ( < 1-mm displacement) and 100 examinations with normal findings were selected. In the first interpretation session, only a text history was given for 112 examinations, and both text and a graphic indicating the site of pain for 114 examinations. Six months later, a graphic and text history were provided for the 112 cases interpreted without a graphic in the first session, and only text was provided for the other 114 cases. Seven radiologists evaluated the study sets. Sensitivity, specificity, degree of confidence (1-10 scale), and mean interpretation time in seconds were calculated.

RESULTS. Use of a graphic increased overall sensitivity for any subtle fracture from 67% to 73% (p < 0.001), increased degree of confidence from 8.1 without a graphic to 8.4 with a graphic (p < 0.0001), and decreased the time for interpretation by 6%, from 53 seconds without a graphic to 50 seconds with a graphic (p = 0.006). Specificity changed from 93% without a graphic to 94% with a graphic (p = 0.33). Fractures of the third metatarsal were missed most frequently (74%); this percentage improved to 61% with use of a graphic.

CONCLUSION. A graphic complements the text history by improving sensitivity, degree of confidence, and time for interpretation.

DOI of Published Version



AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2014 Oct;203(4):W429-33. doi: 10.2214/AJR.13.11932. Link to article on publisher's site

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AJR. American journal of roentgenology

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Link to Article in PubMed

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