Variation in the quality of lumbar spine MR images in Washington State

Jeffrey G. Jarvik, William D. Robertson, Frank Wessbecher, Kenneth Reger, Cam Solomon, Richard Whitten, Thomas Lumley, Richard A. Deyo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To investigate the variation in quality of lumbar spine magnetic resonance (MR) images as a function of type of ownership of the imaging center, number of studies performed per month, specially training of the image interpreter, and field strength of the MR unit. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Data were collected from all imaging facilities in western Washington state that received reimbursement from the Washington State Health Care Authority. Three readers with expertise in spine imaging, who were blinded to center and patient identification information, rated the technical image quality of each study. All MR images of the lumbar spine (maximum of six) paid for by the health care authority were evaluated. If a center had performed more than six studies, then six were randomly selected for evaluation. RESULTS: Variation in quality scores among sites was significant (P = .001). Field strength was the strongest predictor of better quality. Poorer quality was associated with for-profit ownership, a larger number of radiologists at the site reading MR images, and a larger percentage of studies checked by a radiologist prior to the end of the examination. CONCLUSION: There was significant variation in the quality of MR images of the lumbar spine, and at least a portion of this variation was attributable to characteristics of the imaging center.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)483-490
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Magnetic resonance (MR), quality assurance
  • Radiology and radiologists, socioeconomic issues
  • Spin, MR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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