Retrospective Review of the Drop in Observer Detection Performance Over Time in Lesion-enriched Experimental Studies

Sian Taylor-Phillips, Markus C. Elze, Elizabeth A. Krupinski, Kathryn Dennick, Alastair G. Gale, Aileen Clarke, Claudia Mello-Thoms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The vigilance decrement describes a decrease in sensitivity or increase in specificity with time on task. It has been observed in a variety of repetitive visual tasks, but little is known about these patterns in radiologists. We investigated whether there is systematic variation in performance over the course of a radiology reading session. We re-analyzed data from six previous lesion-enriched radiology studies. Studies featured 8–22 participants assessing 27–100 cases (including mammograms, chest CT, chest x-ray, and bone x-ray) in a reading session. Changes in performance and speed as the reading session progressed were analyzed using mixed effects models. Time taken per case decreased 9–23 % as the reading session progressed (p < 0.005 for every study). There was a sensitivity decrease or specificity increase over the course of reading 100 chest x-rays (p = 0.005), 60 bone fracture x-rays (p = 0.03), and 100 chest CT scans (p < 0.0001). This effect was not found in the shorter mammography sessions with 27 or 50 cases. We found evidence supporting the hypothesis that behavior and performance may change over the course of reading an enriched test set. Further research is required to ascertain whether this effect is present in radiological practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-40
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Digital Imaging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Fatigue
  • Observer performance evaluation
  • Prevalence
  • Radiologist
  • Vigilance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Computer Science Applications


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