What's in the Shadows? Formal Analysis: Art History Method to Improve Interpretation Skills for Mammography and Chest Radiographs in Resident Education

Angela I. Choe, Siobhan Conaty, Jason Ha, Julie Mack, Emel K. Aumann, Emily Wasserman, Kathryn McGillen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rationale and Objectives: To assess the feasibility of using an art history tool of formal analysis in resident education for interpretations of mammography and chest radiographs Methods: In a pre-post study design, residents were shown pre-selected 10 mammograms and 10 chest radiographs for a total of 20 unique anonymized patient cases. After the pretest, residents attended four formal analysis art history lessons. The formal elements included line, light, dark, shade, proportion and balance. The post-tests were administered utilizing the same set of images given during the pre-test. After the completion of the pre- and post-tests, the participants filled out a written survey. Results: On average, participants improved their image descriptions for a mean of 30% of the total number of mammographic images they evaluated, and similarly they improved their image diagnoses for a mean of 31% of the mammographic images. On average, participants improved their image descriptions for a mean of 37% of the total number of chest radiographs they evaluated, while improving their image diagnoses for a mean of 52% of the chest X-rays. Of the 20 participants, 14 (70%) completed the post study survey. Almost all of the respondents endorsed agreement in understanding the application of formal analysis to radiologic interpretation. Eight out of 14 (57%) participants self-reported improvement in identifying abnormalities and contriving descriptors. Conclusion: This pilot study shows that formal art analysis used by art historians may improve radiologic learners’ ability to perceive and describe relevant radiologic abnormalities which in turn would lead to a more accurate radiologic differential diagnosis. The formal analysis process trains the eye to detect and categorize the underlying structure of images. This method provides an alternative arts intervention specifically designed to improve fundamental visual skills in radiology education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-389
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Radiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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