Differences in interpretation of cranial computed tomography in ED traumatic brain injury patients by expert neuroradiologists

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Cranial computed tomography (CT) is generally regarded as the standard for evaluation of structural brain injury in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) presenting to the emergency department (ED). However, the subjective nature of the visual interpretations of CT scans and the qualitative nature of reporting may lead to poor interrater reliability. This is significant because CT positive scans include a continuum of structural injury with differences in treatment. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the consistency of readings of head CT scans obtained within 24 hours after mild TBI in the ED, as assessed by an independent adjudication panel of 3 experienced neuroradiologists. In 80.1% of the cases, all 3 adjudicators agreed with the determination of the presence of structural injury. However, when interrater agreement was assessed with respect to the specific classification of the injury, agreement was poor, with a κ of 0.3 (0.29–0.316; confidence interval [CI] 95%). When classification was collapsed, considering only the presence or absence of hematomas, agreement among all 3 adjudicators improved to 55%, but the κ of 0.355, (0.332–0.78; CI 95%) was still only fair. The data suggest the need for improved recognition and quantification of specific structural injuries in the TBI population for better identification of patients requiring clinical intervention.

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