Second opinion for a radiology read is a reasonable request, particularly if the exam is complex or your symptoms don’t match the results. While radiologists are highly trained specialists, there are conditions that can make a reading less reliable. Getting a second opinion can be facilitated by the ordering doctor or through a second opinion service for additional fees.
I would say that a lack of appropriate clinical information or history is the most common reason for a less reliable read. The history is crucial at times so that the radiologist can focus on a certain area of the scan, interpret findings in the context of your condition, or diagnose an abnormality more accurately. You or your doctor can always call the radiologist and ask them to look again after giving the appropriate history.
Not having prior exams to compare to is another cause for a less reliable read. Prior exams are crucial for the radiologist as some concerning abnormalities may have been present and stable over time. These are therefore less concerning in many cases if they are stable. Change in something on the imaging becomes more concerning. Providing priors to the radiologist is the best course of action.
A radiologist who specializes in a certain organ such as the brain, will in general provide a more reliable read since they may have more training and experience. An overhead by a specialized radiologist may provide a more detailed or accurate evaluation then one done by a general radiologist. Your referring doctor can facilitate an additional look by a specialist radiologist.
A second opinion may be appropriate if you have a rare or complex condition which may not be seen commonly in a community setting. In these cases, you can take your study to a large academic or university hospital and have the radiologists look at it there. The doctor you see at the center can help with this.
It is also appropriate to get a second opinion if you or your doctor feels like the scan interpretation does not agree with your symptoms and how your doing. For example, if a radiologist says you have appendicitis, but your not experiencing any symptoms, then it is appropriate to get a second opinion. Alternatively, if your real sick and the scan comes back normal, it is appropriate to get another opinion if there is no other explanation.
The doctor who ordered the scan can always call the radiologist who read the scan and see if they can take another look with a better history. Alternatively, your doctor may call a more specialized radiology doctor to take a look. You can also take matters in to your own hands and ask for a second opinion or have another radiology practice issue an opinion for a fee. These are available by searching on the internet for second opinion radiology read.