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Patient and Radiologist Characteristics Associated With Accuracy of Two Types of Diagnostic Mammograms.



Earlier studies of diagnostic mammography found wide unexplained variability in accuracy among radiologists. We assessed patient and radiologist characteristics associated with the interpretive performance of two types of diagnostic mammography.

Materials and methods

Radiologists interpreting mammograms in seven regions of the United States were invited to participate in a survey that collected information on their demographics, practice setting, breast imaging experience, and self-reported interpretive volume. Survey data from 244 radiologists were linked to data on 274,401 diagnostic mammograms performed for additional evaluation of a recent abnormal screening mammogram or to evaluate a breast problem, between 1998 and 2008. These data were also linked to patients' risk factors and follow-up data on breast cancer. We measured interpretive performance by false-positive rate, sensitivity, and AUC. Using logistic regression, we evaluated patient and radiologist characteristics associated with false-positive rate and sensitivity for each diagnostic mammogram type.


Mammograms performed for additional evaluation of a recent mammogram had an overall false-positive rate of 11.9%, sensitivity of 90.2%, and AUC of 0.894; examinations done to evaluate a breast problem had an overall false-positive rate of 7.6%, sensitivity of 83.9%, and AUC of 0.871. Multiple patient characteristics were associated with measures of interpretive performance, and radiologist academic affiliation was associated with higher sensitivity for both indications for diagnostic mammograms.


These results indicate the potential for improved radiologist training, using evaluation of their own performance relative to best practices, and for improved clinical outcomes with health care system changes to maximize access to diagnostic mammography interpretation in academic settings.

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