An audit of 202 routine abdominal and pelvic ultrasound examinations was carried out to evaluate the clinical performance and interpretation of these scans by radiographers and compare them with radiologists, and to investigate the extended role of radiographers in performing these scans. Each scan was first performed by a radiographer and then repeated by the radiologist. The findings were subsequently compared and any discrepancy resolved by re-scanning the patient with or without the involvement of an independent radiologist, or by follow-up of the patient by other imaging studies. In 158 (78.2%) scans, there was complete agreement between the radiographer’s and radiologist’s findings. In 44 scans (21.8%), there was incomplete agreement – there were 108 abnormal findings in these scans with incomplete agreement/discrepancy in 53 abnormalities. Overall, the accuracy of radiographers was 92.0% and radiologists was 91.7%; however, the accuracy rates were 94.0% and 96.4%, respectively, when minor abnormal findings without significant influence on the patient’s clinical outcome were excluded.
Since its introduction into clinical practice in the early 1970s, ultrasound (US) has become firmly established as an extremely valuable imaging modality and widely used to the extent that abdominal US is the second most commonly performed imaging study (after chest radiography). Our department has also experienced a steady and significant increase in demand for US services over recent years; the number of US examinations performed annually has increased from 16,734 in 1997 to 20,845 in 2000 (Fig. 1).
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