Despite advanced diagnostic imaging methods such as computed tomography scans, magnetic resonance imaging, and ultrasound, X-rays still comprise a whopping two-thirds of the emergency department’s imaging volume.
“X-rays can provide actionable information to help manage patients, so emergency physicians should be experts in X-ray interpretation,” said Daniel Kim, MD, FRCPC, ultrasound fellowship director at the University of British Columbia and attending emergency physician at Vancouver General Hospital, both in Vancouver. “X-rays are frequently used because, compared to other imaging methods, they can be taken and read quickly, are often ordered by lower level providers as part of standard order sets, and cost a lot less.”
Most often, emergency physicians are the first to interpret plain films in order to make a diagnosis, prescribe treatment, or determine if more tests are needed. “We can’t always depend on radiologists to interpret films in real time, especially outside of normal business hours when most emergency physicians work,” said Dr. Kim, who will present “Don’t Blink: Plain Film Diagnoses You Cannot Afford to Miss.” “Occasionally, an emergency physician can make a deadly diagnosis based on plain film radiography alone.”