Does Reader Performance with Digital Breast Tomosynthesis Vary according to Experience with Two-dimensional Mammography?

Lorraine Tucker, Fiona Gilbert, Susan Astley, Amanda Dibden, Archana Seth, Juliet Morel, Sara Bundred, Janet Litherland, Herman Klassen, Gerald Lip, Hema Purushothaman, Hilary Dobson, Linda McClure, Philippa Skippage, Katherine Stoner, Caroline Kissin, Ursula Beetles, Yit Lim, Emma Hurley, Jane GoligherRumana Rahim, Tanja Gagliardi, Tamara Suaris, Stephen Duffy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose To assess whether individual reader performance with digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) and two-dimensional (2D) mammography varies with number of years of experience or volume of 2D mammograms read. Materials and Methods After written informed consent was obtained, 8869 women (age range, 29–85 years; mean age, 56 years) were recruited into the TOMMY trial (A Comparison of Tomosynthesis with Digital Mammography in the UK National Health Service Breast Screening Program), an ethically approved, multicenter, multireader, retrospective reading study, between July 2011 and March 2013. Each case was read prospectively for clinical assessment and to establish ground truth. A retrospective reading data set of 7060 cases was created and randomly allocated for independent blinded review of (a) 2D mammograms, (b) DBT images and 2D mammograms, and (c) synthetic 2D mammograms and DBT images, without access to previous examinations. Readers (19 radiologists, three advanced practitioner radiographers, and two breast clinicians) who had 3–25 (median, 10) years of experience in the U.K. National Health Service Breast Screening Program and read 5000–13 000 (median, 8000) cases per annum were included in this study. Specificity was analyzed according to reader type and years and volume of experience, and then both specificity and sensitivity were analyzed by matched inference. The median duration of experience (10 years) was used as the cutoff point for comparison of reader performance. Results Specificity improved with the addition of DBT for all readers. This was significant for all staff groups (56% vs 68% and 49% vs 67% [P < .0001] for radiologists and advanced practitioner radiographers, respectively; 46% vs 55% [P = .02] for breast clinicians). Sensitivity was improved for 19 of 24 (79%) readers and was significantly higher for those with less than 10 years of experience (91% vs 86%; P = .03) and those with total mammographic experience of fewer than 80 000 cases (88% vs 86%; P = .03). Conclusion The addition of DBT to conventional 2D screening mammography improved specificity for all readers, but the gain in sensitivity was greater for readers with less than 10 years of experience.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • Reader
  • Tomosynthesis
  • Experience
  • Performance
  • Mammography


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