n South African Medical Journal - Accuracy of after-hour 'red dot' trauma radiograph triage by radiographers in a South African regional hospital : research




The global demand for diagnostic imaging exceeds the supply of radiologists and is of particular significance in poorly resourced healthcare environments where many radiographs are unreported. Delayed or absent reporting may negatively impact patient management. In well-resourced countries there is recognition that extending the role of radiographers to radiological reporting tasks helps meet service demands.

To determine the accuracy of acute fracture detection by South African radiographers working in an after-hour setting.
We performed a retrospective study of radiographers at a Western Cape Regional Hospital over 2 months in 2011. The sensitivity and specificity of radiographers' fracture detection were compared with that of a consultant radiologist. Differences were evaluated using the McNemar chi-squared test, with <0.05 regarded as significant.
A total of 369 radiographs were analysed. The overall accuracy of reporting by radiographers was 93.7%, with 74.4% sensitivity for fracture detection. Experienced radiographers performed better than inexperienced radiographers; adult fractures were more consistently identified than paediatric fractures, and appendicular fractures were better visualised than axial fractures. In all instances there was a significant difference between fracture detection by radiographers and the radiologist. Experienced radiographers evaluating appendicular fractures in adults achieved the highest sensitivity (89.9%), which was not significantly different from that of a consultant radiologist (=0.88).
The performance of experienced radiographers in our study is comparable with that of experienced radiographers internationally, who have no specific training in trauma radiograph reporting. However, additional training is required if role extension is to be considered.


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