Cover: Effect of Variability in the Interpretation of Coronary Angiograms on the Appropriateness of Use of Coronary Revascularization Procedures

Effect of Variability in the Interpretation of Coronary Angiograms on the Appropriateness of Use of Coronary Revascularization Procedures

Published 2000

by Lucian L. Leape, Rolla Edward Park, Thomas M. Bashore, John Harrison, Charles J. Davidson, Robert H. Brook

Download Free Electronic Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.1 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

Background: Evidence from numerous studies of coronary angiography show differences between observers' assessments of 15% to 45%. The implication of this variation is serious: If readings are erroneous, some patients will undergo revascularization procedures unnecessarily and others will be denied an essential treatment. We evaluated the variation in interpretation of angiograms and its potential effect on appropriateness of use of revascularization procedures. Methods and Results: Angiograms of 308 randomly selected patients previously studied for appropriateness of angiography, coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), and percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) were interpreted by a blinded panel of 3 experienced angiographers and compared with the original interpretations. The potential effect on differences on the appropriateness of revascularization was assessed by use of the RAND criteria. Technical deficiencies were found in 52% of cases. Panel readings tended to show less significant disease (none in 16% of vessels previously read as showing significant disease), less severity of stenosis (43% lower, 6% higher), and lower extent of disease (23% less, 6% more). The classification of CABG changed from necessary/appropriate to uncertain/inappropriate for 17% to 33% of cases when individual ratings were replaced by panel readings. Conclusions: The general level of technical quality of coronary angiography is unsatisfactory. Variation in the interpretation of angiograms was substantial in all measures and tended to be higher in individual than in panel readings. The effect was to lead to a potential overestimation of appropriateness of use of CABG by 17% and of PTCA by 10%. These findings indicate the need for increased attention to the technical quality of studies and an independent second reading for angiograms before recommending revascularization.

Originally published in: American Heart Journal, v. 139, no. 1, January 2000, pp. 106-113.

This report is part of the RAND reprint series. The Reprint was a product of RAND from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.