A Normal Thyroid by Any Other Name: Linguistic Analysis of Statements Describing a Normal Thyroid Gland from Noncontrast Chest CT Reports.
PURPOSE: To determine the variability and readability of language used in chest CT reports to describe a "normal" thyroid gland. METHODS: Using a semi-automated process, we identified unique sentences or phrases describing a "normal" thyroid gland in 11,357 noncontrast chest CT reports. Readability metrics were computed for each descriptor, including sentence length and grade-level indices quantifying the education necessary for text comprehension. Grade-level indices included the Flesch-Kincaid (FK) grade level, Gunning Fog index (GF), Coleman-Liau (CL) index, automated readability index (ARI), and a computed composite grade level (CGL) calculated as (FK + GF + CL + ARI)/4. RESULTS: There were 342 unique "normal" thyroid descriptors identified among 6,957 noncontrast chest CT reports characterizing a normal thyroid gland. For these 342 unique descriptors, sentence length varied 23-fold, with a mean sentence length of 8.3 ± 5.1 words. CGL varied 4-fold, with a mean of 16.4 ± 4.5, suggesting that descriptors for a normal thyroid gland, on average, require an advanced college-level education for comprehension. CONCLUSIONS: The language used by radiologists to describe a normal thyroid gland in chest CT reports is variable and complex. The linguistic characteristics observed herein may be a surrogate for the broader readability of radiology reports. With the growing role of the radiology report in patient communication, further linguistic analysis of reporting language may provide valuable insight for optimizing radiology communication.
Short, RG; Befera, NT; Hoang, JK; Tailor, TD
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