Distress in the Radiology Waiting Room

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1148/radiol.11102211

Uncertainty of diagnosis can weigh heavily on the patient, and perceptions of what medical personnel may consider a minor procedure do not necessarily reflect the patient’s experience.


To assess the level of distress in women awaiting radiologic procedures.

Materials and Methods

In this institutional review board–approved and HIPAA-compliant study, 214 women between 18 and 86 (mean, 47.9) years of age completed the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), Impact of Events Scale (IES), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), and Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) immediately prior to their procedures. One hundred twelve women awaited breast biopsy; 42, hepatic chemoembolization for cancer; and 60, uterine fibroid embolization. Data were analyzed with multivariate analysis of variance and post hoc Tukey tests. Results are reported as means and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).


All three patient groups experienced abnormally high mean PSS, IES, and CES-D scores, but only the breast biopsy group had highly abnormal anxiety levels. Breast biopsy patients had a significantly higher mean STAI score of 48 (95% CI: 45, 50) than did women awaiting hepatic chemoembolization (mean score, 26; 95% CI: 22, 29; P < .001) and fibroid embolization (mean score, 24; 95% CI: 21, 27; P < .001). IES ratings did not differ significantly among the groups, with a mean score of 26 (95% CI: 23, 29) for breast biopsy patients, 23 (95% CI: 18, 28) for hepatic chemoembolization patients, and 23 (95% CI: 18, 27) for fibroid embolization patients. The CES-D score did not differ significantly among breast biopsy (mean score, 15; 95% CI: 13, 17), hepatic chemoembolization (mean score, 14; 95% CI: 11, 18), and fibroid embolization (mean score, 12; 95% CI: 9, 15) patients. PSS ratings of breast biopsy patients were significantly higher (mean score, 18; 95% CI: 16, 19) than those of hepatic chemoembolization patients (mean, 15; 95% CI: 13, 17; P < .01), but they were not significantly different from those of women awaiting fibroid embolization (mean, 16; 95% CI: 14, 18; P = .23).


Uncertainty of diagnosis can be associated with greater stress than is awaiting more invasive and potentially risky treatment.

© RSNA, 2011


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Article History

Received November 17, 2010; revision requested January 5, 2011; final revision received January 10; accepted February 9; final version accepted February 18.
Published online: July 2011
Published in print: July 2011