American College of Radiology
Five Things Physicians
and Patients Should Question
Don’t do imaging for uncomplicated headache.
Imaging headache patients absent specific risk factors for structural disease is not likely to change management or improve outcome. Those
patients with a significant likelihood of structural disease requiring immediate attention are detected by clinical screens that have been validated
in many settings. Many studies and clinical practice guidelines concur. Also, incidental findings lead to additional medical procedures and expense
that do not improve patient well-being.
Don’t image for suspected pulmonary embolism (PE) without moderate
or high pre-test probability of PE.
While deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and PE are relatively common clinically, they are rare in the absence of elevated blood d-Dimer levels and certain
specific risk factors. Imaging, particularly computed tomography (CT) pulmonary angiography, is a rapid, accurate and widely available test, but
has limited value in patients who are very unlikely, based on serum and clinical criteria, to have significant value. Imaging is helpful to confirm or
exclude PE only for such patients, not for patients with low pre-test probability of PE.
Avoid admission or preoperative chest x-rays for ambulatory patients
with unremarkable history and physical exam.
Performing routine admission or preoperative chest x-rays is not recommended for ambulatory patients without specific reasons suggested by
the history and/or physical examination findings. Only 2 percent of such images lead to a change in management. Obtaining a chest radiograph is
reasonable if acute cardiopulmonary disease is suspected or there is a history of chronic stable cardiopulmonary disease in a patient older than age
70 who has not had chest radiography within six months.
Don’t do computed tomography (CT) for the evaluation of suspected
appendicitis in children until after ultrasound has been considered as
Although CT is accurate in the evaluation of suspected appendicitis in the pediatric population, ultrasound is nearly as good in experienced hands.
Since ultrasound will reduce radiation exposure, ultrasound is the preferred initial consideration for imaging examination in children. If the results
of the ultrasound exam are equivocal, it may be followed by CT. This approach is cost-effective, reduces potential radiation risks and has excellent
accuracy, with reported sensitivity and specificity of 94 percent.
Don’t recommend follow-up imaging for clinically inconsequential
Simple cysts and hemorrhagic cysts in women of reproductive age are almost always physiologic. Small simple cysts in postmenopausal women are
common, and clinically inconsequential. Ovarian cancer, while typically cystic, does not arise from these benign-appearing cysts. After a good quality
ultrasound in women of reproductive age, don’t recommend follow-up for a classic corpus luteum or simple cyst <5 cm in greatest diameter. Use 1 cm
as a threshold for simple cysts in postmenopausal women.
These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items
on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.
Released April 4, 2012
How This List Was Created
The American College of Radiology (ACR) initially solicited expert opinion from physician leaders with its Board of Chancellors. A working group was then formed
to further identify common clinical scenarios in which imaging may be misused and should be reconsidered. Members of the group included the physician
chairs or vice chairs of seven ACR commissions such as Quality and Safety, Appropriateness Criteria and Metrics. An initial list of topics was narrowed down
based on the highest potential for improvement, representing a broad range of tests and the availability of strong guidelines. Members then researched specific
recommendations and evidentiary statements based on their expertise. Recommendations that were too general or were well covered by other existing measures
and initiatives were eliminated to identify the final five things list. ACR’s disclosure and conflict of interest policy can be found at www.acr.org.
Jordan JE, Wippold FJ II, Cornelius RS, Amin-Hanjani S, Brunberg JA, Davis PC, De La Paz RL, Dormont D, Germano I, Gray L, Mukherji SJ, Seidenwurm DJ, Sloan MA, Turski PA, Zimmerman RD, Zipfel GJ, Expert
Panel on Neurologic Imaging. ACR Appropriateness Criteria® headache. [online publication]. Reston (VA): American College of Radiology (ACR); 2009. 8 p. http://www.acr.org/SecondaryMainMenuCategories/
Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI). Diagnosis and treatment of headache. Bloomington (MN): Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI); 2011 Jan. 84 p.
Frishberg BM, Rosenberg JH, Matchar DB, et al. Evidence-Based Guidelines in the Primary Care Setting: Neuroimaging in Patients with Nonacute Headache. American Academy of Neurology. 2000. Available
online: http://www.aan.com/professionals/practice/pdfs/gl0088.pdf (US Headache Consortium).
Stephen D. Silberstein. Practice parameter: Evidence-based guidelines for migraine headache (an evidence-based review): Report of the Quality. Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of
Neurology. 2000;55;754 Neurology. (US Headache Consortium).
Edlow JA, Panagos PD, Godwin SA, Thomas TL, Decker WW; American College of Emergency Physicians. Clinical policy: critical issues in the evaluation and management of adult patients presenting to the
emergency department with acute headache. Ann Emerg Med. 2008 Oct;52(4):407-36.
Torbicki A, Perrier A, Konstantinides S, et al. Guidelines on the diagnosis and management of acute pulmonary embolism: the Task Force for the Diagnosis and Management of Acute Pulmonary Embolism of
the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Eur Heart J. 2008; 29(18):2276-315.
Neff MJ. ACEP releases clinical policy on evaluation and management of pulmonary embolism. American Family Physician 2003; 68 (4): 759–60.
Stein PD, Woodard PK, Weg JG, Wakefield TW, Tapson VF, Sostman HD, Sos TA, Quinn DA, Leeper KV, Hull RD, Hales CA, Gottschalk A, Goodman LR, Fowler SE, Buckley JD. Diagnostic pathways in acute
pulmonary embolism: recommendations of the PIOPED II Investigators. Radiology 2007; 242 (1): 15–21.
American College of Radiology. ACR Appropriateness Criteria: routine admission and preoperative chest radiography. http://www.acr.org/SecondaryMainMenuCategories/quality_safety/app_criteria/pdf/
Gomez-Gil E, Trilla A, Corbella B, et al. Lack of clinical relevance of routine chest radiography in acute psychiatric admissions. Gen Hosp Psychiatry 2002; 24(2): 110-113.
Archer C, Levy AR, McGregor M. Value of routine preoperative chest x-rays: a meta-analysis. Can J Anaesth 1993; 40(11): 1022-1027.
Munro J, Booth A, Nicholl J. Routine preoperative testing: a systematic review of the evidence. Health Technol Assess 1997; 1(12):i-iv; 1-62.
Grier DJ, Watson LF, Harnell GG, Wilde P. Are routine chest radiographs prior to angiography of any value? Clin Radiol 1993; 48(2):131-33.
Gupta SD, Gibbins FJ, Sen I. Routine chest radiography in the elderly. Age Ageing. 1985; 14(1):11-14.
American College of Radiology. ACR Appropriateness Criteria: routine chest radiographs in ICU patients http://www.acr.org/SecondaryMainMenuCategories/quality_safety/app_criteria/pdf/
Wan MJ, et al. Acute appendicitis in young children: cost-effectiveness of US versus CT in diagnosis-a Markov decision analytic model. Radiology 2009;250:378-86.
Doria AS, et al. US or CT for diagnosis of appenditicis in children? A meta-analysis. Radiology 2006;241:83-94.
Garcia K, et al. Suspected appendicitis in children: diagnostic importance of normal abdominopelvic CT findings with nonvisualized appendix. Radiology 2009;250:531-537.
Krishnamoorthi R, et al. Effectiveness of a staged US and CT protocol for the diagnosis of pediatric appendicitis: reducing radiation exposure in the age of ALARA. Radiology 2011;259:231-239.
American College of Radiology. ACR Appropriateness Criteria: right lower quadrant pain/suspected appendicitis. http://www.acr.org/SecondaryMainMenuCategories/quality_safety/app_criteria/pdf/
Frush DP. Frush KS, Oldham KT. Imaging of acute appendicitis in children: EU versus U.S. or US versus CT? A North American perspective. Pediatr Radiolo. 2009; 39(5):500-5.
Levine D, Brown DL, Andreotti RF, Management of asymptomatic ovarian and other adnexal cysts imaged at US: Society of Radiologists in Ultrasound Consensus Conference Statement. Radiology 2010
American College of Radiology. ACR Appropriateness Criteria: clinically suspected adnexal masses. http://www.acr.org/SecondaryMainMenuCategories/quality_safety/app_criteria/pdf/
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG Committee Opinion: number 280, December 2002. The role of the generalist obstetrician-gynecologist in the early detection of ovarian cancer.
Obstet Gynecol 2002;100(6):1413–1416.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG Practice Bulletin. Management of adnexal masses. Obstet Gynecol 2007;110(1):201–214.
Timmerman D, Valentin L, Bourne TH, et al. Terms, definitions and measurements to describe the sonographic features of adnexal tumors: a consensus opinion from the International Ovarian Tumor Analysis
(IOTA) Group. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol 2000;16(5):500–505.
About the ABIM Foundation
About the American College of Radiology:
The mission of the ABIM Foundation is to advance
medical professionalism to improve the health
care system. We achieve this by collaborating with
physicians and physician leaders, medical trainees,
health care delivery systems, payers, policymakers,
consumer organizations and patients to foster a shared
understanding of professionalism and how they can
adopt the tenets of professionalism in practice.
The mission of the American College of Radiology
(ACR) is to serve its 34,000 members in advancing the
quality, safety, and science of radiology and radiation
oncology. The ACR conducts cutting-edge clinical
and socioeconomic research, establishes quality and
safety standards and provides continuing education
and advocacy for radiologists, radiation oncologists
and medical physicists. Since 1923, the ACR has
worked to keep medical imaging and radiation
oncology safe, effective and accessible for all.
To learn more about the ABIM Foundation, visit www.abimfoundation.org.
For more information or questions, please visit www.acr.org.
For more information or to see other lists of Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question, visit www.choosingwisely.org.