Patient confidentiality

Last revised by Assoc Prof Frank Gaillard on 06 Sep 2022

Patient confidentiality and anonymity are of paramount importance.

Under no circumstances should any information be uploaded either in the patient's presenting symptoms, case description or images themselves that could identify an individual patient. 

In short nothing in your images or accompanying text should lead to the identification of an individual. The most easily overlooked is embedded data on your images, especially ultrasound. As such, ideally, your images should have no text on them whatsoever.

Our DICOM uploading process will automatically fully anonymise your cases before they are uploaded to Radiopaedia, but will not remove "burnt in" text (such as is often found in ultrasound of nuclear medicine studies). These will need cropping.  

Radiopaedia does not mandate patient consent to be obtained for all case contributions provided patient confidentiality is maintained and you abide by your local institution's policies. If in doubt, however, we urge you to err on the side of caution and obtain informed consent. You can download a consent form from here or use your local consent form. If you do obtain consent please send a copy to [email protected]

Identifiers are anything that could lead to the images being linked to a particular patient. Identifiers include (adapted from the HIPAA guidelines):

  • name
  • initials
  • date of birth
  • contact information including
    • address, including full or partial postal code
    • telephone or fax numbers
    • e-mail addresses
  • unique identifying numbers, e.g. UR, MRN, HID
  • vehicle identifiers
  • medical device identifiers, e.g. serial numbers
  • web or internet protocol addresses containing any link to the patient
  • biometric data
  • facial photograph or comparable image, this includes photographs where facial details have been obscured 1
  • audiotapes
  • names of relatives
  • date of study

In addition please round off the patient's age to the nearest 5 years (for adults). 

Sometimes anonymity cannot be guaranteed merely by removing the aforementioned information. The rarity of the condition, the circumstances of presentation, the demographics of the patient and the specifics of your practice may all contribute to potential identification. For example, a common condition may be almost unique if your practice services a small population. 

Additionally, special considerations apply to cross-sectional imaging of the head and face. Uploading thin slices which include the facial soft tissues may in some cases jeopardize patient privacy. Therefore thin sections of this region should only be used when clinically relevant, and preferably narrowed down to the region where the pathology of interest is.

Rarely, there will be cases of sufficient educational value that publishing them with identifiers is in the public interest. This decision will be made by the editorial board at its absolute discretion and written consent will need to be obtained. Once approved, the case description should include a statement of consent, for example, "patient consent was obtained to publish this case”. 

We at Radiopaedia.org are pretty easygoing, but when it comes to patient confidentiality issues we get really grumpy. The case will be deleted as soon as we become aware of it. No questions asked. If that was your only copy, we apologise, but you have been warned.

These issues are covered in our terms of use

As Radiopaedia.org is a collaborative project, we are unable to stop identifying information being uploaded, and we rely on contributors to abide by our terms of use. In the event that you find a case with personal information, we would be very appreciative of an email sent to  [email protected] and we will remove the content immediately.

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