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Radiographs: it's all in the reading

MagazineNovember 2005 (Vol. 16 Issue 8)Radiographs: it's all in the reading

Medical screening isn't an area of healthcare that covers itself in glory

Medical screening isn't an area of healthcare that covers itself in glory. Too many tests come up with false positives and false negatives, a recent study has discovered.

A hundred clinicians in Russia, who are employed with the specific task of diagnosing and managing pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) and respiratory disease, took part in the study. When the clinicians were shown 50 chest radiographs, few could agree if there was an abnormality.

As a result, many serious health problems were missed, and researchers estimate that there were so many false positives that around 60,000 people would have gone through unnecessary medical intervention, treated for a disease they didn't have (BMJ, 2005; 331: 379-82).

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