Introduction: Digital storage of echocardiographic data offers logistical advantages over videotape archival. However, limited information is available on the accuracy of clinically compressed digitised examinations, an important consideration for patient safety. Materials and Methods: Transthoracic echocardiograms of 520 consecutive patients were prospectively acquired digitally and on videotape. Two echocardiologists, in consensus, reported studies in both formats sequentially. Using the videotape as a reference, the significance of any reported differences was graded from both imaging and clinical standpoints, and the reasons for these differences identified. Results: From an imaging perspective, differences between digital and videotaped studies were absent or minor in 459 cases (88%), fairly significant in 55 (11%) and very significant in 6 (1%). The main reasons for the observed differences were inadequate acquisition of optimal views (59%), an insufficient number of acquired cardiac cycles (25%) and suboptimal image quality (9%). These differences were considered to be of possible or definite clinical importance in 21 (4%) and 8 (2%) cases, respectively. In multinominal logistic regression models, the only independent predictor of significant difference between digitised and videotaped images was study complexity. Regardless of case complexity, most diagnostic errors arising from digital review were attributable to technical failure rather than observer error. Conclusions: The potential for important errors arising from exclusive reporting of clinically compressed digital echocardiograms is small. Digital echocardiography, as practiced in a routine clinical setting, offers a patient-safe alternative to videotape review
The field of echocardiography has seen significant technological advances in instrumentation, imaging and recently, image archival and review.1 Compared to conventional videotape storage, digital echocardiograms offer many advantages,2-6 including random access to images, comparative interpretation of serial studies, rapid data transmission, duplication without image degradation and data measurement without a need for calibration. The logistical superiority of digital review has the potential to improve the use of physician and sonographer time and increase cost-efficiency.
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