Probable diagnosis in a report implies a high degree of certainty with regards to a diagnosis. There is however, a little room left for doubt and other possibilities. This is a word often used in the impression or conclusion of the report.
Words like “probable” give a degree of certainty of a diagnosis
There are other words that radiologists use to provide a probability of a diagnosis being present. Others may be: may represent, possibly, likely, concerning for etc. Other times radiologists may provide a set of possible diagnosis called a differential diagnosis.
Certainty of a diagnosis can increase when combining clinical information and further testing
The certainty of a diagnosis can increase if the clinical history supports what is found on imaging. Further laboratory testing and imaging may also provide more confidence to a diagnosis that a radiologist raises in a report.
Example of a probable diagnosis.
An example may be for a liver mass. Many liver masses can have some overlap in appearance on imaging. A vascular liver mass in a young women who takes birth control pills may be a probable adenoma but there are other masses which can have a similar appearance.
Another example of a probable diagnosis in a report may be concerning a thick walled gallbladder with stones. While in the setting of right upper quadrant pain, this may represent represent probable cholecystitis or inflamed gallbladder, there are other possibilities. This can represent a thickened gallbladder from other causes like liver disease or heart failure. The diagnosis can be made certain from appropriate clinical symptoms and further testing with ultrasound.
A probable diagnosis of cancer can sometimes be made on a CT. The appearance of cancer on a CT needs to be confirmed with biopsy. There are also other conditions that can look like cancer on a CT. The radiologist may use words like highly concerning or probable instead of saying there is cancer.
Radiologists sometimes use words like probable diagnosis in reports to convey a high degree of certainty but not 100%. The confidence can reach 100% for a diagnosis when combined with the clinical presentation and further testing.
Radiology imaging tests are a piece of the workup of a condition or symptom. Everything must be combined to reach a diagnosis. The radiologist will often use words to convey the degree of certainty of a diagnosis. This will help the referring physician understand how certain a diagnosis is.