Surgeon preference for radiologist interpretation of deformity radiographs-A survey of lumbar spine research society membership

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The radiologist interpretation of scoliosis films is non-standardized, with some practitioners providing detailed measurements of the deformity whereas others defer the interpretation of the deformity to the ordering surgeon. For radiologists, the standard of care is not clear, and this creates confusion in terms of how much interpretation is required. However, detailed radiologist reports sometimes conflict with the surgeon's interpretation, which can create confusion for patients who receive the reports, or in extreme cases can lead to insurance denials. Thus, the purpose of this study was to help establish a standard for interpretation of these films by surveying the ordering surgeons and documenting expert opinion about the amount and type of radiologist interpretation that is requested. Methods: We designed a SurveyMonkey survey which aimed to look at standard practice for radiologist dictation of scoliosis radiographs. Twelve questions were sent to Lumbar Spine Research Society membership via email with a description of the study. One follow-up email was also sent to non-responders. Results: The rate of completed surveys was 46 out of 185 Lumbar Spine Research Society members (25%). Thirty-seven respondents (80%) worked in academic institutions, 33 were orthopedists (71%), and 13 were neurosurgeons (28%). Fifty percent reported that radiologists' level of detail in dictations was inconsistent at their institution. Detailed numeric reporting was rare (6.5%). When the radiologist did provide numeric measurements, surgeons reported that they often differed from the surgeon's own measurements, with only 4% reporting that the measurements ''rarely'' differed from the surgeon's; 49% reported that the radiologist's measurements that differed from the surgeon's had led to insurance denials for their patients. The majority of respondents (70%) did not want the radiologist to provide detailed numeric measurements of the deformity, and 91% reported that the radiologist's measurements had no impact on their clinical decision making. Conclusions: Detailed deformity measurements are time consuming for the radiologist, and would seem to have low clinical utility for the responding surgeons in this survey, with significant potential for discrepancies in interpretation to lead to insurance denials. Level of Evidence: IV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-533
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Spine Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© International Society for the Advancement of Spine Surgery


  • Adult spinal deformity
  • Insurance denials
  • Interpretation
  • Radiologist
  • Radiology
  • Scoliosis films
  • Scoliosis radiographs
  • Spinal deformity
  • Surgeon preference


Dive into the research topics of 'Surgeon preference for radiologist interpretation of deformity radiographs-A survey of lumbar spine research society membership'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this