To see or not to see: a qualitative interview study of patients’ views on their own diagnostic images

Leslie Carlin, Helen Smith, Flis Henwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To ascertain what meaning individuals attach to perceiving images of their own interior body and how the images and their meanings affect the clinical consultation. Design Face-to-face semistructured interviews. Participants 25 adult patients in southern England who, within the preceding 12 months, had been referred for diagnostic imaging. Setting Community. Results: For patients, being shown their own X-rays, MRIs or CT images creates a variety of effects: (1) a sense of better understanding of the diagnosis; (2) validation of their sensory and emotional response to the illness or injury and (3) an alteration to the tenor and nature of the clinical encounter between patient and physician. In addition to meanings attached to these images, patients also impute meaning to the physician's decision not to share an image with them. The desire to see their image was greater in those patients with a skeletal injury; patients are less keen on viewing abdominal or other soft tissue images. Conclusions: Viewing images of one's interior, invisible body is powerful and resonant in a number of ways. The experience of not seeing, whether through the patient's or the physician's choice, is also fraught with meaning.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2014

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