Radiological image artifact
Most artifacts in radiology refer to something seen on an image that are not present in reality but appear due to a quirk of the modality itself. Artifact is also used to describe findings that are due to things outside the patient that may obscure or distort the image, e.g. clothing, external cardiac monitor leads, body parts of carer, etc.
The commonest artifact seen in radiology is image noise, which is inherent to every modality and technique, and can be mitigated but never eliminated.
As an interpreter of imaging it is important to be aware of the main artifacts of the examination being reviewed to avoid issuing an erroneous report. However at times artifacts are welcome because they may be advantageous to the interpreter, making anatomy/pathology easier to appreciate, e.g. posterior acoustic shadowing of gallstones on ultrasound or susceptibility artifact of hemosiderin on MRI.
Types of imaging artifacts
- operator technique, e.g. clothing artifact
- instrumentation, e.g. ring artifact on CT
- technique, e.g. magic angle effect on MRI
- patient factors, e.g. respiratory motion
- image processing, e.g. stair step artifacts on CT
Artifacts by modality
- x-ray artifacts
- nuclear medicine artifacts
- ultrasound artifacts
- CT artifacts
- MRI artifacts
History and etymology
The word artifact derives from the meaning of something that is artificial and not naturally present on the image. The word artefact was first used by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1821. It was derived from the Latin 'arte', the ablative form of 'ars' meaning art, and 'factus', the past participle of 'facere' meaning 'to make'. The form, artifact, spelling with an i and not an e, was first seen in English in 1884 2.
- 1. Huang SY, Seethamraju RT, Patel P, Hahn PF, Kirsch JE, Guimaraes AR. Body MR Imaging: Artifacts, k-Space, and Solutions. (2015) Radiographics : a review publication of the Radiological Society of North America, Inc. 35 (5): 1439-60. doi:10.1148/rg.2015140289 - Pubmed
- 2. Robert K. Barnhart, Sol Steinmetz. Chambers Dictionary of Etymology. (1999) ISBN: 9780550142306
Related Radiopaedia articles
Terms used in radiology
- corner of the film
- diagnosis of exclusion
- filling defect
- forme fruste
- gold standard
- heterogeneous vs heterogenous
- in extremis
- natural history
- sine qua non
- subclinical disease