Correct chest radiograph terminology

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 1 Aug 2018

Correct chest radiograph terminology is very helpful when describing pathology. It is especially important when describing findings to colleagues (radiologist or not), who may not be able to see the image in front of them, e.g. over the phone, or when describing an image in a radiology exam.

Terms to avoid

There are some terms that will drive people wild!  Steer clear of them at all costs:

  • shadowing: your medical and surgical colleagues might talk about shadowing, but it sounds better if you use the synonymous radiological term, opacification
  • fields: describing pathology in the left upper lung field could drive people over the edge so its probably better to describe pathology in a zone, not a field

Be specific

Do not use terms loosely.  As a radiologist, we are supposed to describe accurately and specifically.  However, many terms get used interchangeably even though they are not synonymous:

  • opacification: increased density
  • consolidation: a description of the solidification of lung parenchyma because of airspace pathology - it is not a specific term for infection
    • patchy consolidation
    • confluent consolidation
  • more to come...

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