Typos in Radiology Reports

Typos in radiology reports are common.  Radiologists have more frequently been using speech recognition software to produce reports. They dictate into a microphone and the speech recognition software composes a report in real time.

The speech recognition software at times does not recognize what is spoken and makes a mistake.  The software simply places a word which it thinks it hears and is wrong.  For example, the radiologist may say the abnormality is on image 132 and instead the software types the abnormality is and image 132.

Doesn’t the radiologist read his report before signing it?

Yes, he does.  But as humans, some mistakes still make it into the final report.  Fortunately, most of these typos have no consequence.  Often, referring physicians will call to clarify any confusing statements in the report.  Sometimes there is a discrepancy between the body of the report and the impression which clues the referring physician to a potential error.

For example, the body of the report may describe an appendicitis.    The impression of the report may state there is no acute appendicitis instead of there is acute appendicitis.  This can be a very important mistake and most of the time it is caught by the radiologist or referrer.

Other typos can be words inserted into reports which make no sense at all.  An example may be:  There are calcifications in the spleen throw out.  The radiologist meant to say that there were calcifications through out.   Other times, there can be completely random words inserted that don’t sound at all like what the radiologist meant.  Somehow, this escapes the proofreading capabilities of the radiologist.  The brain simply does not see it at times.

Errors can occur in measurements with numbers being typed incorrectly.  Some medical terms are transcribed by the software as lay terms.  For example, the radiologist may have said there is fluid anterior or in front of the liver.  The software transcribes that there is fluid attractive to the liver.

Can the radiologist correct typos?

Often the radiologist will correct typos by adding an addendum to the report after it is finalized.  The radiologist can not go back to the original report and modify it once it is finalized.  Either the radiologist may notice the typo or someone will call and let him know.  Often the radiologist will state that the impression has an error and provide a corrected one.

Typos are common and thankfully usually without consequence to the patient.  Typos happen because the speech recognition software we use is not perfect.  The radiologist being human is not perfect at noticing typos when he proofreads the reports.  The radiologist will issue an addendum when an error is noted in a finalized report.

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