Interpretive Versus Noninterpretive Content in Top-Selling Radiology Textbooks

What Are We Teaching Medical Students?
Published:January 16, 2015DOI:

      Rationale and Objectives

      There are little data as to whether appropriate, cost effective, and safe ordering of imaging examinations are adequately taught in US medical school curricula. We sought to determine the proportion of noninterpretive content (such as appropriate ordering) versus interpretive content (such as reading a chest x-ray) in the top-selling medical student radiology textbooks.

      Materials and Methods

      We performed an online search to identify a ranked list of the six top-selling general radiology textbooks for medical students. Each textbook was reviewed including content in the text, tables, images, figures, appendices, practice questions, question explanations, and glossaries. Individual pages of text and individual images were semiquantitatively scored on a six-level scale as to the percentage of material that was interpretive versus noninterpretive. The predominant imaging modality addressed in each was also recorded. Descriptive statistical analysis was performed.


      All six books had more interpretive content. On average, 1.4 pages of text focused on interpretation for every one page focused on noninterpretive content. Seventeen images/figures were dedicated to interpretive skills for every one focused on noninterpretive skills. In all books, the largest proportion of text and image content was dedicated to plain films (51.2%), with computed tomography (CT) a distant second (16%). The content on radiographs (3.1:1) and CT (1.6:1) was more interpretive than not.


      The current six top-selling medical student radiology textbooks contain a preponderance of material teaching image interpretation compared to material teaching noninterpretive skills, such as appropriate imaging examination selection, rational utilization, and patient safety.

      Key Words

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