• education;
  • medical;
  • radiography;
  • thoracic;
  • clinical competence;
  • educational measurement

BACKGROUND: Accurate interpretation of chest radiographs (CXR) is essential as clinical decisions depend on readings.

OBJECTIVE: We sought to evaluate CXR interpretation ability at different levels of training and to determine factors associated with successful interpretation.

DESIGN: Ten CXR were selected from the teaching file of the internal medicine (IM) department. Participants were asked to record the most important diagnosis, their certainty in that diagnosis, interest in a pulmonary career and adequacy of CXR training. Two investigators independently scored each CXR on a scale of 0 to 2.

PARTICIPANTS: Participants (n=145) from a single teaching hospital were third year medical students (MS) (n=25), IM interns (n=44), IM residents (n=45), fellows from the divisions of cardiology and pulmonary/critical care (n=16), and radiology residents (n=15).

RESULTS: The median overall score was 11 of 20. An increased level of training was associated with overall score (MS 8, intern 10, IM resident 13, fellow 15, radiology resident 18, P<.001). Overall certainty was significantly correlated with overall score (r=.613, P<.001). Internal medicine interns and residents interested in a pulmonary career scored 14 of 20 while those not interested scored 11 (P=.027). Pneumothorax, misplaced central line, and pneumoperitoneum were diagnosed correctly 9%, 26%, and 46% of the time, respectively. Only 20 of 131 (15%) participants felt their CXR training sufficient.

CONCLUSION: We identified factors associated with successful CXR interpretation, including level of training, field of training, interest in a pulmonary career and overall certainty. Although interpretation improved with training, important diagnoses were missed.