The objective of this paper is to explore sources of diagnostic error in musculoskeletal oncology and potential strategies for mitigating them using case examples. As musculoskeletal tumors are often obvious, the diagnostic errors in musculoskeletal oncology are frequently cognitive. In our experience, the most encountered cognitive biases in musculoskeletal oncologic imaging are as follows: (1) anchoring bias, (2) premature closure, (3) hindsight bias, (4) availability bias, and (5) alliterative bias. Anchoring bias results from failing to adjust an early impression despite receiving additional contrary information. Premature closure is the cognitive equivalent of “satisfaction of search.” Hindsight bias occurs when we retrospectively overestimate the likelihood of correctly interpreting the examination prospectively. In availability bias, the radiologist judges the probability of a diagnosis based on which diagnosis is most easily recalled. Finally, alliterative bias occurs when a prior radiologist’s impression overly influences the diagnostic thinking of another radiologist on a subsequent exam. In addition to cognitive biases, it is also important for radiologists to acknowledge their feelings when making a diagnosis to recognize positive and negative impact of affect on decision making. While errors decrease with radiologist experience, the lack of application of medical knowledge is often the primary source of error rather than a deficiency of knowledge, emphasizing the need to foster clinical reasoning skills and assist cognition. Possible solutions for reducing error exist at both the individual and the system level and include (1) improvement in knowledge and experience, (2) improvement in clinical reasoning and decision-making skills, and (3) improvement in assisting cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-503
Number of pages11
JournalSkeletal Radiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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