Lung scan reporting language: what does it mean?

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The aim of this study was to analyse the understanding of the verbal probability language used for communicating lung scan findings. A questionnaire providing a series of expressions of probability in lung scan reporting was sent to 211 consultant nuclear medicine providers in the UK. Respondents were asked to estimate the probability of pulmonary embolism (PE) communicated by each reporting expression on a visual linear probability scale. Analysis of 135 replies revealed a wide variation in the interpretation of the probability language. We suggest that different training, the nature of the probability scale itself and the difficulties of expressing a verbal report on a numerical scale are major reasons for this finding. We conclude that use of verbal probability language complicates the communication of PE risk and that likelihood ratios provide a logical alternative.

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