A: Radionuclide bone imaging plays an integral part in tumor staging and management. The majority of bone scans are performed in patients with a diagnosis of malignancy, especially carcinoma of the breast, prostate gland and lung. This modality is extremely sensitive for detecting skeletal abnormalities. Numerous studies have confirmed that it is considerably more sensitive than conventional radiography for this purpose.
However, the specificity of bone scan abnormalities can be low since many other conditions may mimic tumor; therefore, it is important that radionuclide bone scans are correlated with available, relevant imaging studies. Existing imaging studies that are available can help inform the diagnosis and treatment for the patient. Furthermore, correlation with existing radiographs is considered essential to insure that benign conditions are not interpreted as tumor.
While there are no formal studies on variations in care and how often correlation with existing studies is performed, there is significant anecdotal information from physicians practicing in the field that there is a gap in care and that correlation is not occurring frequently when images are available.
Literature suggests that as many as 30 percent of radiology reports contain errors, regardless of the imaging modality, radiologist’s experience or time spent in interpretation. Evidence also suggests that radiology reports are largely nonstandardized and commonly incomplete, vague, untimely and error-prone and may not serve the needs of referring physicians. Therefore, it is imperative that existing imaging reports be correlated with the nuclear medicine bone scintigraphy procedure to ensure proper diagnosis and appropriate patient treatment.