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Every second counts: digital and analogue mammography - comparison of reading times at the Queen Elizabeth Breast Screening Unit, Gateshead, UK


In the NHS Breast Screening Programme (NHSBSP) there is a transition to digital mammography following recommendations made by the Cancer Reform Strategy [1]. A number of US studies have demonstrated that the time taken to interpret digital mammography is longer than that for analogue [2, 3]. There are no published data about this from the NHSBSP.


Over a 2-month period, 11 readers were timed in their interpretation of batched analogue or digital mammograms. These were either hung on a multiviewer or preloaded onto Sectra PACS. Previous images were not digitised. A total of 396 batches were included in the analysis (unpaired t test), 330 digital and 66 analogue.


It takes more time to report a digital mammogram compared with analogue (40 ± 1 vs. 35 ± 2 seconds, P < 0.05). There is no difference in the time taken to report prevalent screens between the analogue and digital groups (34 ± 7 vs. 39 ± 2 seconds). The incident screens were quicker to interpret as analogue.


Our data support the hypothesis that digital interpretation is slower than analogue (albeit by 5 seconds) but in the absence of needing to compare with previous images there is no difference between the two modalities.


  1. Cancer Reform Strategy. 2007, Department of Health

  2. Berns EA, Edward Hendrik R, Solari M, et al: Digital and screen-film mammography: comparison of image acquisition and interpretation times. Am J Roentgenol. 2006, 187: 38-41. 10.2214/AJR.05.1397.

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  3. Haygood TM, et al: Timed efficiency of interpretation of digital and film-screen screening mammograms. Am J Roentgenol. 2009, 192: 216-220. 10.2214/AJR.07.3608.

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Bristow, G., Potterton, A. & Lunt, L. Every second counts: digital and analogue mammography - comparison of reading times at the Queen Elizabeth Breast Screening Unit, Gateshead, UK. Breast Cancer Res 13 (Suppl 1), P19 (2011).

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