The authors assessed to what extent radiology teaching programs employed dedicated chest radiologists and their functions.
Information regarding the clinical, teaching, and research role of the chest radiologist was available from responses to a survey of radiology departments with residency training programs in the United States and Canada. Emphasis was placed on the role of chest subspecialists, “dedicated chest radiologists” (DCRs), who spent at least two thirds of their clinical time interpreting and directing chest-related imaging studies and procedures.
Among the 171 residency programs that responded, 118 had DCRs. There were 262 full-time and 233 part-time DCR positions, of which 43 were not filled. Among departments with DCRs, 66% were medical school programs while the remaining 34% were independent or medical-school-affiliated programs; 30% were organized by organ system, 5% by technology, and 65% had a combination of both; and 78% had more than 12 residents. DCRs interpreted routine chest radiographs in 96%, critical care radiographs in 94%, chest computed tomography (CT) studies in 72%, and chest magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies in 44% of their departments. Departments without DCRs were usually smaller, 70% having 12 or fewer residents. Their designated chest radiologists interpreted all chest radiographs in 21%, all critical care radiographs in 19%, all chest CT studies in 13% and all chest MRI studies in 8% of these departments.
Dedicated chest radiologists were more involved than non-DCRs in all aspects of chest imaging, teaching, and research including analysis of image quality and acquisition of new technology. The highest quality of chest radiology training, defined as programs in which the chest fellowship positions were filled in 1991, was found in departments in which DCRs interpreted all chest radiographs, all chest CT studies, and most MRI studies.
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