To compare the diagnostic accuracy of generalist radiologists working in a community setting against abdominal radiologists working in an academic setting for the interpretation of MR when diagnosing acute appendicitis among emergency department patients.
This observational study examined MR image interpretation (non-contrast MR with diffusion-weighted imaging and intravenous contrast-enhanced MR) from a prospectively enrolled cohort at an academic hospital over 18 months. Eligible patients had an abdominopelvic CT ordered to evaluate for appendicitis and were > 11 years old. The reference standard was a combination of surgery and pathology results, phone follow-up, and chart review. Six radiologists blinded to clinical information, three each from community and academic practices, independently interpreted MR and CT images in random order. We calculated test characteristics for both individual and group (consensus) diagnostic accuracy then performed Chi-square tests to identify any differences between the subgroups.
Analysis included 198 patients (114 women) with a mean age of 31.6 years and an appendicitis prevalence of 32.3%. For generalist radiologists, the sensitivity and specificity (95% confidence interval) were 93.8% (84.6–98.0%) and 88.8% (82.2–93.2%) for MR and 96.9% (88.7–99.8%) and 91.8% (85.8–95.5%) for CT. For fellowship-trained radiologists, the sensitivity and specificity were 96.9% (88.2–99.5%) and 89.6% (82.8–94%) for MR and 98.4% (90.5–99.9%) and 93.3% (87.3–96.7%) for CT. No statistically significant differences were detected between radiologist groups (p = 1.0, p = 0.53, respectively) or when comparing MR to CT (p = 0.21, p = 0.17, respectively).
MR is a reliable, radiation-free imaging alternative to CT for the evaluation of appendicitis in community-based generalist radiology practices.
• There was no significant difference in MR image interpretation accuracy between generalist and abdominal fellowship-trained radiologists when evaluating sensitivity (p = 1.0) and specificity (p = 0.53).
• There was no significant difference in accuracy comparing MR to CT imaging for diagnosing appendicitis for either sensitivity (p = 0.21) or specificity (p = 0.17).
• With experience, generalist radiologists enhanced their MR interpretation accuracy as demonstrated by improved interpretation sensitivity (OR 2.89 CI 1.44-5.77, p = 0.003) and decreased mean interpretation time (5 to 3.89 min).