Effect of radiologists' diagnostic work-up volume on interpretive performance

Diana S M Buist, Melissa L Anderson, Robert A Smith, Patricia A Carney, Diana L Miglioretti, Barbara S Monsees, Edward A Sickles, Stephen H Taplin, Berta M Geller, Bonnie C Yankaskas, Tracy L Onega
Radiology 2014, 273 (2): 351-64

PURPOSE: To examine radiologists' screening performance in relation to the number of diagnostic work-ups performed after abnormal findings are discovered at screening mammography by the same radiologist or by different radiologists.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: In an institutional review board-approved HIPAA-compliant study, the authors linked 651 671 screening mammograms interpreted from 2002 to 2006 by 96 radiologists in the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium to cancer registries (standard of reference) to evaluate the performance of screening mammography (sensitivity, false-positive rate [ FPR false-positive rate ], and cancer detection rate [ CDR cancer detection rate ]). Logistic regression was used to assess the association between the volume of recalled screening mammograms ("own" mammograms, where the radiologist who interpreted the diagnostic image was the same radiologist who had interpreted the screening image, and "any" mammograms, where the radiologist who interpreted the diagnostic image may or may not have been the radiologist who interpreted the screening image) and screening performance and whether the association between total annual volume and performance differed according to the volume of diagnostic work-up.

RESULTS: Annually, 38% of radiologists performed the diagnostic work-up for 25 or fewer of their own recalled screening mammograms, 24% performed the work-up for 0-50, and 39% performed the work-up for more than 50. For the work-up of recalled screening mammograms from any radiologist, 24% of radiologists performed the work-up for 0-50 mammograms, 32% performed the work-up for 51-125, and 44% performed the work-up for more than 125. With increasing numbers of radiologist work-ups for their own recalled mammograms, the sensitivity (P = .039), FPR false-positive rate (P = .004), and CDR cancer detection rate (P < .001) of screening mammography increased, yielding a stepped increase in women recalled per cancer detected from 17.4 for 25 or fewer mammograms to 24.6 for more than 50 mammograms. Increases in work-ups for any radiologist yielded significant increases in FPR false-positive rate (P = .011) and CDR cancer detection rate (P = .001) and a nonsignificant increase in sensitivity (P = .15). Radiologists with a lower annual volume of any work-ups had consistently lower FPR false-positive rate , sensitivity, and CDR cancer detection rate at all annual interpretive volumes.

CONCLUSION: These findings support the hypothesis that radiologists may improve their screening performance by performing the diagnostic work-up for their own recalled screening mammograms and directly receiving feedback afforded by means of the outcomes associated with their initial decision to recall. Arranging for radiologists to work up a minimum number of their own recalled cases could improve screening performance but would need systems to facilitate this workflow.

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