What Does Grossly Normal Mean in Medical Terms?

Grossly normal in medical terms means that we do not see anything abnormal on an imaging test but there is some limitation in the evaluation.  It indicates that there is nothing seen but this does not necessarily exclude an abnormality.    Grossly normal can be used in imaging reports referring to individual structures or the entire test.

What does grossly normal mean?

Grossly normal in medical terms indicates that nothing is seen but an abnormality may be present.  The reason may be because the exam is of poor quality or not the best for evaluating the particular problem.  Other causes may be because the exam is not done the best way for the particular structure or problem.

One reason for grossly normal may be a poor quality exam

Poor quality exams are often because of artifacts.  This means the test is of poor quality because of patient or technical factors.  One example for a poor quality exam from patient factors is patient movement.  Tests like X-ray, CT and MRI require the patient to be still during the exam.  Movement from breathing, coughing, discomfort or anxiety leads to fuzzy poor quality images.

Another patient related factor may be obesity.  Many exams are of reduced diagnostic quality when patients are large.  In X-ray, this can make seeing abnormalities difficult because the X-rays have to penetrate more tissues.  This can also be a factor for CT and MRI degrading image quality.

Another reason for grossly normal may be because there is a better test

Another common reason for a grossly normal exam is because the test is not great at looking at that structure.  An example in the abdomen would be CT of the gallbladder.  While CT may show some abnormalities of the gallbladder, ultrasound is much better. The radiologist may therefore say that gallbladder is grossly normal on CT.

Chest X-rays are often done for evaluating chest symptoms.  They are good at seeing some bigger abnormalities but CTs are much better at showing us abnormalities.   The radiologist may therefore say that the heart, lungs and mediastinum are grossly normal on chest X-ray.  We know that a chest X-ray does not exclude many abnormalities of the chest.

In the pelvis, CT shows us the uterus and ovaries but is not the best at finding problems.  Ultrasound is a much better test for the uterus and ovaries.  The radiologist may therefore say that the uterus and ovaries are grossly normal for this reason.  Grossly normal because the CT may not show us abnormalities as well as ultrasound.

Grossly normal in a radiology report is sometimes used to indicate that nothing is seen but does not mean that nothing is wrong for various reasons.   It is therefore best to pursue a search for abnormalities with additional testing.

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