April 1996

Breast imaging reporting and data system standardized mammography lexicon: observer variability in lesion description.


The American College of Radiology has recommended the Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS) as a standardized scheme for describing mammographic lesions. The objective of this study was to measure inter- and intraobserver variabilities of radiologists' descriptions of mammographic lesions with the BI-RADS standardized lexicon.
Sixty mammographic studies with abnormal findings were independently evaluated by five radiologists. Readers described each lesion by selecting a single term from the BI-RADS lexicon for each of eight morphologic categories: calcification distribution, number, and description; mass margin, shape, and density; associated findings; and special cases. Additionally, each reader assessed the significance of each lesion on a five-point scale. One observer read each case twice. Inter- and intraobserver variabilities for each description and interpretation category of the BI-RADS lexicon were determined with Cohen's kappa statistic. Radiologists' specific use of calcification descriptors was evaluated in detail.
Substantial agreement was observed between readers for choosing terms to describe masses and calcifications (kappa value range, 0.50 +/- 0.02-0.77 +/- 0.03). Intraobserver agreement for these categories was similar (kappa value range, 0.57 +/- 0.07-0.84 +/- 0.09). Considerable inter- and intraobserver variabilities were noted for the "associated findings" and "special cases" categories (kappa value range, -0.02 +/- 0.14-0.38 +/- 0.12), a result that in part reflected the small number of cases to which these categories were assigned. Moderate interobserver variability and little intraobserver variability in the interpretation of lesion significance were noted when an assessment classification similar to that of BI-RADS was used. Use of terms to describe calcifications did not always conform to BI-RADS-defined levels of suspicion.
BI-RADS is moderately successful in providing a standardized language for physicians to describe lesion morphology. Efforts to reevaluate specific terms and the diagnostic significance assigned to calcification descriptors may prove useful in maintaining the promise of improved quality with the BI-RADS standardized mammography lexicon.

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Published In

AJR. American journal of roentgenology
Pages: 773 - 778
PubMed: 8610547



Department of Radiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.

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