Reducing errors in Abdominal Imaging

Blog Post by Professor Fergus V. Coakley, University of California, San Francisco

The medical literature consistently suggests that 1.0 to 2.6% of radiology reports contain serious errors [1-3]. My experience in clinical practice and running a quality assurance program has convinced me that many of these interpretative mistakes in abdominal imaging are avoidable. Fundamentally, the “pattern recognition” approach that lies at the heart of radiology can be a very powerful diagnostic tool, but also prone to error if different entities look the same.

My book “Pearls and Pitfalls in Abdominal Imaging” brings together those entities in contemporary abdominal imaging that can cause confusion and mismanagement in daily radiological practice, and that can be readily used as bench-side reference to avoid these problems. These “pearls and pitfalls” include pseudotumors, technical artifacts, anatomic variants, and a miscellany of diagnoses that are underrecognized (e.g., adenomyomatosis of the gallbladder) or only recently described (e.g., pseudocirrhosis of fulminant hepatic failure). The common denominator is that these entities present real problems for the practicing radiologist. The overarching goal of this work is to provide a resource for the practicing radiologist when they see something that makes them think “that’s weird” or “what else could that be?” Ultimately, the intent is to provide a bench book that assists any radiologist reading out abdominal imaging studies and improves the interpretation of such studies so that patient care is improved.

Pearls and Pitfalls in Abdominal Imaging edited by Fergus V. Coakley, is published by Cambridge University Press


  1. Bechtold RE, Chen MY, Ott DJ, et al. Interpretation of abdominal CT: analysis of errors and their causes. J Comput Assist Tomogr 1997; 21: 681–685.
  2. Carney E, Kempf J, DeCarvalho V, Yudd A, Nosher J. Preliminary interpretations of after-hours CT and sonography by radiology residents versus final interpretations by body imaging
  3. radiologists at a level 1 trauma center. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2003; 181: 367–373.

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