Is Confidence of Mammographic Assessment a Good Predictor of Accuracy?

Department of Family Medicine, University of Vermont, 1 S Prospect St, Burlington, VT 05401-3444, USA.
American Journal of Roentgenology (Impact Factor: 2.73). 07/2012; 199(1):W134-41. DOI: 10.2214/AJR.11.7701
Source: PubMed


Interpretive accuracy varies among radiologists, especially in mammography. This study examines the relationship between radiologists' confidence in their assessments and their accuracy in interpreting mammograms.
In this study, 119 community radiologists interpreted 109 expert-defined screening mammography examinations in test sets and rated their confidence in their assessment for each case. They also provided a global assessment of their ability to interpret mammograms. Positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) were modeled as functions of self-rated confidence on each examination using log-linear regression estimated with generalized estimating equations. Reference measures were cancer status and expert-defined need for recall. Effect modification by weekly mammography volume was examined.
Radiologists who self-reported higher global interpretive ability tended to interpret more mammograms per week (p = 0.08), were more likely to specialize (p = 0.02) and to have completed a fellowship in breast or women's imaging (p = 0.05), and had a higher PPV for cancer detection (p = 0.01). Examinations for which low-volume radiologists were "very confident" had a PPV of 2.93 times (95% CI, 2.01-4.27) higher than examinations they rated with neutral confidence. Trends of increasing NPVs with increasing confidence were significant for low-volume radiologists relative to noncancers (p = 0.01) and expert nonrecalls (p < 0.001). A trend of significantly increasing NPVs existed for high-volume radiologists relative to expert nonrecall (p = 0.02) but not relative to noncancer status (p = 0.32).
Confidence in mammography assessments was associated with better accuracy, especially for low-volume readers. Asking for a second opinion when confidence in an assessment is low may increase accuracy.

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