Medical Practice

Computer-Assisted Diagnosis of Abdominal Pain using “Estimates” Provided by Clinicians

Br Med J 1972; 4 doi: (Published 11 November 1972) Cite this as: Br Med J 1972;4:350
  1. D. J. Leaper,
  2. Jane C. Horrocks,
  3. J. R. Staniland,
  4. F. T. de Dombal


    This paper reports a comparison between two modes of computer-aided diagnosis in a real-time prospective trial involving 472 patients with acute abdominal pain. In the first mode the computer-aided system analysed each of the 472 patients by referring to data previously collated from a large series of 600 real-life patients. In the second mode the system used as a basis for its analysis “estimates” of probability provided by a group of six clinicians. The accuracy and reliability of both modes were compared with the performance of unaided clinicians.

    Using “real-life” data the computer system was significantly more effective than the unaided clinician. By contrast, when using the clinicians' own estimates the computer-aided system was often less effective than the unaided clinician—especially when diagnosing less common disorders. It seems, firstly, that future systems for computer-aided diagnosis should employ data from real-life and not clinicians' estimates, and, secondly, that clinicians themselves cannot analyse cases in a probabilistic fashion, since often they have little idea of what the “true” probabilities are.

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