How to use a gestalt interpretation for ventilation-perfusion lung scintigraphy

Petronella J. Hagen, Ieneke J.C. Hartmann, Otto S. Hoekstra, Marcel P.M. Stokkel, Gerrit J.J. Teule, Martin H. Prins

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The use of a so-called gestalt interpretation, an integration of different sets of criteria and the physician's own experience, has been advocated in the interpretation of lung scintigraphs of patients with clinically suspected pulmonary embolism. However, data on the reliability of this approach are limited. The aim of this study was to investigate the observer variability and accuracy of the gestalt interpretation of perfusion scintigraphy (combined with chest radiography) as well as the impact of adding ventilation scintigraphy and clinical pretest information. Methods: Three experienced observers independently reviewed the chest radiograph and ventilation-perfusion scans of 101 consecutive patients with clinically suspected pulmonary embolism. All datasets were reviewed twice by each observer, using a visual analog scale to indicate the estimated probability of pulmonary embolism. The results of the gestalt interpretations were analyzed against the presence or absence of pulmonary embolism. Results: All 3 gestalt interpretations had a good-to-excellent interobserver variability (intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC], 0.73-0.89), with similar intraobserver agreement (ICC, 0.76-0.95). The performance of all 3 readers was comparable. The areas under the curve (AUCs) of all 3 observers were high and similar (for observer 1, the AUCs were 0.96 [95% confidence interval (CI)], 0.93-1.00), 0.96 (95% CI, 0.93-1.00), and 0.95 (95% CI, 0.90-1.00), respectively, for the 3 gestalt interpretations). Conclusion: A gestalt interpretation is a useful classification scheme with good-to-excellent intra- and interobserver variability. However, the interpretation and the consequences of this result are dependent on the observer. Unexpectedly, the addition of information on ventilation scintigraphy and clinical information did not affect the overall assessment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1317-1323
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of nuclear medicine
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2002


  • Gestalt interpretation
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Ventilation-perfusion lung scintigraphy

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