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Clinicians and Radiologists May Differ in MRI Readings

Agreement ranges from excellent to fair in evaluation of lumbar spine disc herniation images

MONDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- In the evaluation of MRI conducted in patients with symptomatic lumbar disc herniation, there is excellent agreement between clinicians and radiologists when comparing herniation vertebral level and location within level, but only fair agreement when comparing herniation morphology, according to a study published in the April 1 issue of Spine.

Jon D. Lurie, M.D., of the Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H., and colleagues abstracted data from radiology reports on 396 patients who were enrolled in the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial.

The researchers found that agreement between clinicians and radiologists on the presence and level of herniation was 93.4 percent, with only 3.3 percent showing disagreement concerning level. In 42.2 percent of the cases, they found that radiology reports did not clearly describe morphology. But in the 214 cases with clear descriptions, the agreement was considered only fair with asymmetric disagreement and clinicians more frequently rating more abnormal morphologic categories.

"Care should be taken to avoid common pitfalls," the authors write. "Transitional vertebrae may lead to confusion between vertebral levels. Disc morphology should be described as per the guidelines, because the prevalence of different morphologies varies substantially in asymptomatic populations."

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