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The Search Patterns of Abdominal Imaging Subspecialists for Abdominal Computed Tomography: Toward a Foundational Pattern for New Radiology Residents

  • Kliewer, Mark A.1
  • Hartung, Michael1
  • Green, C. Shawn2
  • 1 Department of Radiology and Ultrasound Imaging, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin , (United States)
  • 2 Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin , (United States)
Published Article
Journal of Clinical Imaging Science
Scientific Scholar
Publication Date
Jan 09, 2021
DOI: 10.25259/JCIS_195_2020
PMID: 33500836
PMCID: PMC7827582
PubMed Central
  • Original Research


Objectives: The routine search patterns used by subspecialty abdominal imaging experts to inspect the image volumes of abdominal/pelvic computed tomography (CT) have not been well characterized or rendered in practical or teachable terms. The goal of this study is to describe the search patterns used by experienced subspecialty imagers when reading a normal abdominal CT at a modern picture archiving and communication system workstation, and utilize this information to propose guidelines for residents as they learn to interpret CT during training. Material and Methods: Twenty-two academic subspecialists enacted their routine search pattern on a normal contrast-enhanced abdominal/pelvic CT study under standardized display parameters. Readers were told that the scan was normal and then asked to verbalize where their gaze centered and moved through the axial, coronal, and sagittal image stacks, demonstrating eye position with a cursor as needed. A peer coded the reported eye gaze movements and scrilling behavior. Spearman correlation coefficients were calculated between years of professional experience and the numbers of passes through the lung bases, liver, kidneys, and bowel. Results: All readers followed an initial organ-by-organ approach. Larger organs were examined by drilling, while smaller organs by oscillation or scanning. Search elements were classified as drilling, scanning, oscillation, and scrilling (scan drilling); these categories were parsed as necessary. The greatest variability was found in the examination the body wall and bowel/mesentery. Two modes of scrilling were described, and these classified as roaming and zigzagging. The years of experience of the readers did not correlated to number of passes made through the lung bases, liver, kidneys, or bowel. Conclusion: Subspecialty abdominal radiologists negotiate through the image stacks of an abdominal CT study in broadly similar ways. Collation of the approaches suggests a foundational search pattern for new trainees.

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