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Seeing Beyond the Scan: Second Opinions in Radiology

Feb 01, 2024
beyond the scan second opinions in radiology beyond the scan second opinions in radiology

Radiology is a cornerstone of modern medicine and plays a crucial role in diagnosing medical conditions. With non-invasive or minimally invasive techniques, radiology charts a path to the most effective treatment plans while also monitoring disease progression.

Radiological imaging, include X-rays, CT scans, MRI, ultrasounds and PET scans. Collectively, they help identify organ abnormalities, fractures, tumors, and other internal medical conditions that are not visible to the naked eye.

Radiologists undergo specialized and extensive training. They are often the first clinician to find and confirm the presence of disease and use multiple scans over long periods of time to determine how much a disease has responded to a course of treatment.

Second Opinions in Radiology

In general, most missed radiologic diagnoses are attributable to image interpretation errors by radiologists1. Every year, there are approximately 40 million diagnostic errors involving imaging worldwide2. In trauma settings alone, studies have reported that the average radiological error rate is around 30%3.

According to studies, second opinion radiology readings have been reported to improve diagnostic interpretation and change clinical management in a substantial proportion of cases4. In a 13-year period in the USA, second opinion readings for radiology grew from 4.3% to 35.7%5. It is generally viewed that second opinion readings avoid redundant imaging examinations, additional imaging costs, and patient burden.

Radiological reports are crucial building blocks in determining diagnoses and planning a course of treatment. Yet, radiologists can have varying levels of expertise and experience. One might see certain details or patterns that might have been missed by others and different radiological interpretations can lead to different treatment plans.

Studies have shown that physician specialty, training level, and image display method had significant associations with the accuracy of interpretation of emergency department radiographs6. It has also been found that emergency department radiology results were more accurate when interpreted by a radiologist rather than the emergency medicine doctor, which is a frequent occurrence7.

If the training level and physician specialty are exceedingly relevant to radiological accuracy, a second opinion might provide a more nuanced or detailed analysis, particularly since studies show that second opinions improve diagnostic interpretation. 

MRI Clarity Quest

MRIs have become commonly used diagnostic imaging tools. It is often the image modality of choice for the brain and spinal cord for diagnosis of aneurysms of cerebral vessels, conditions of the eye and inner ear, MS, spinal cord injuries, strokes, tumors, or train injury from trauma8. MRIs can also diagnose blood clots, ligament and meniscus tears and can take images of blood flow, monitor tumor development or growth.

Once you get an MRI, why get a second opinion? Here are just a few examples of how a second opinion might give you greater clarity.

Let’s take an MRI for spine pathology with a recommendation for spinal surgery.

Studies showed that about 40.6% of spine consultations are second opinion cases. About 61% of those cases received a “discordant second opinion,” which means that two interpretations were given for the same MRI. The same study revealed that 75% of discordant second opinions recommended more conservative management9.

If you had to undergo major spinal cord surgery, would you want a second opinion that might offer an alternative and perhaps less invasive approach?

Let’s take another example – diagnosis of tumors and cancerous conditions affecting the brain and the spinal cord. Typically, these are also diagnosed by MRIs.

Studies showed that second opinion interpretations of neuroimaging studies by oncologic neuroradiologists provide added value by reducing error and optimizing the care of cancer patients. The study showed that in 19% of the cases, there were disagreements between the initial report and second opinion interpretation. In 15% of the cases, patient management and/or disease stage would have been altered10.

If you or your loved one was diagnosed with cancer in the brain or spinal cord, wouldn’t you want a second opinion?

Why Get a Second Opinion?

A second opinion is additiol source of assurance, assisting strengthen decision-making. Your medical journey from diagnosis through treatment and follow up is rife with complexities that one expert alone might not fully unravel.

Second opinions don’t diminish your doctor’s proficiency. Instead, a second opinion is a pivotal tool, that provides collaboration, clarity and certainty in situations that are quite stressful. You gain another set of eyes, a broader perspective, often from someone with unique training and experience.

If you are diagnosed with life threatening illness, or are facing complex procedure based on radiological imaging interpretations, a second opinion is an advocate for an informed choice, an extra layer of validation, and peace of mind.

Your health. Your voice. Your decision.

Contact us today for your second opinion.


Our website content is posted for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be used for primary diagnoses-making and should not replace a consultation with a professional health care provider. If you have any health issues or complaints, please consult your primary physician. Healthcare data provided for informational purposes is not an alternative to an in-person physician consultation.

This website is an informative site that aims to offer its users find helpful information regarding a second opinion services that will be suitable for their medical condition. The content provided in this website is not and shall not be taken as expert or professional medical advice for any matter and is not an alternative to an in-person physician consultation. Our services are different from the diagnostic service typically provided by a physician, as the physicians do not have the benefit of information that would be obtained by examining you in person, observing your physical condition, or conducting diagnostic testing to the specifications of the physician. Therefore, the physician may not be aware of facts or information that would affect the physician ́s medical opinion of your condition. In some cases, these facts may be critical to the opinion. USARAD is not responsible for potential errors in opinion resulting from missing, incomplete, poorly translated or illegible records, or poor-quality images