Physicians' Abdominal Auscultation: A multi-rater agreement study

Gade John, Kruse Peter, Ole Trier Andersen, Pedersen Simon Boel, Boesby Steen

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Background: Abdominal auscultation has an important position in the physical examination of the abdomen. Little is known about rater agreement. The aim of this study was to describe rater agreement and thus, indirectly, the value of the examination. Methods: In a semi-virtual setup 12 recordings of the intestinal sounds from 8 patients with acute abdominal pain and 4 healthy volunteers were presented to 100 physicians. The physicians were asked to characterize the intestinal sounds as normal or pathologic. Fisher's exact test was used for comparison between groups of physicians. Results: Overall, 72% of the answers with regard to healthy volunteers concluded that the sounds were normal (equalling agreement), whereas 64% of answers with regard to intestinal obstruction concluded that the sounds were pathologic (but agreement was higher due to agreement on wrong diagnosis in one case). Bowel sounds from colonic obstruction were diagnosed as pathologic in 94 of 100 answers. In peritonitis disagreement dominated. Specialists in gastrointestinal medicine diagnosed bowel obstruction significantly more poorly than nonspecialists in gastrointestinal surgery (P < 0.05). Conclusion: Rater agreement in normal subjects and in patients with intestinal obstruction was acceptable for a clinical examination. Abdominal auscultation is a helpful clinical examination in patients with acute abdominal pain.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalScandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology
    Issue number7
    Pages (from-to)773-777
    Publication statusPublished - 1998

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