In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the impact of environmental factors such as ambient light on radiologist performance. One commonly encountered distractor found within all clinical departments that has received little or no attention is acoustic noise. The present work records the level of noises encountered within environments where radiologic images are viewed and establishes the impact of a clinically relevant level of noise on the ability of radiologists to perform a typical diagnostic task. Noise levels were recorded 10 times within each of 14 environments, 11 of which were locations where radiologic images are judged. Thirty chest images were then presented to 26 senior radiologists, who were asked to detect up to three nodular lesions within 30 posteroanterior chest x-ray images in the absence and presence of noise at an amplitude demonstrated in the clinical environment. Jackknife free-response receiver-operating characteristic analyses was performed on the free-response data. The results demonstrated that noise amplitudes rarely exceeded that encountered with normal conversation with the maximum mean value for an image-viewing environment being 56.1 dB. This level of noise had no impact on the ability of radiologists to identify chest lesions with figure of merits of 0.68, 0.69, and 0.68 with noise and 0.65, 0.68, and 0.67 without noise for chest radiologists, nonchest radiologists, and all radiologists, respectively. Equally, no differences were seen for false-positive and false-negative scores or on the time required to judge the images. These findings suggest that noise at levels encountered within areas where radiologic images are viewed is not a major distractor within the reporting environment, but the need for further work has been identified.
University College Dublin ->