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Walking on Thin Ice! Identifying Methamphetamine "Drug Mules" on Digital Plain Radiography - Zurich Open Repository and Archive


Abdul Rashid, S N; Mohamad Saini, S; Abdul Hamid, S; Muhammad, S S J; Mahmud, R; Thali, Michael J; Flach, P M (2014). Walking on Thin Ice! Identifying Methamphetamine "Drug Mules" on Digital Plain Radiography. British Journal of Radiology, 87(1036):20130472.

Abstract

Objective: The purpose of this study was to retrospectively evaluate the sensitivity, specificity and accuracy of identifying methamphetamine (MA) internal payloads in “drug mules” by plain abdominal digital radiography (DR).

Methods: The study consisted of 35 individuals suspected of internal MA drug containers. A total of 59 supine digital radiographs were collected. An overall calculation regarding the diagnostic accuracy for all “drug mules” and a specific evaluation concerning the radiological appearance of drug packs as well as the rate of clearance and complications in correlation with the reader's experience were performed. The gold standard was the presence of secured drug packs in the faeces.

Results: There were 16 true-positive “drug mules” identified. DR of all drug carriers for Group 1 (forensic imaging experienced readers, n = 2) exhibited a sensitivity of 100%, a mean specificity of 76.3%, positive predictive value (PPV) of 78.5%, negative predictive value (NPV) of 100% and a mean accuracy 87.2%. Group 2 (inexperienced readers, n = 3) showed a lower sensitivity (93.7%), a mean specificity of 86%, a PPV of 86.5%, an NPV of 94.1% and a mean accuracy of 89.5%. The interrater agreement within Group 1 was 0.72 and within Group 2 averaged to 0.79, indicating a fair to very good agreement.

Conclusion: DR is a valuable screening tool in cases of MA body packers with huge internal payloads being associated with a high diagnostic insecurity. Diagnostic insecurity on plain films may be overcome by low-dose CT as a cross-sectional imaging modality and addressed by improved radiological education in reporting drug carriers on imaging.

Advances in knowledge: Diagnostic signs (double-condom and halo signs) on digital plain radiography are specific in MA “drug mules”, although DR is associated with high diagnostic insecurity and underreports the total internal payload.

Abstract

Objective: The purpose of this study was to retrospectively evaluate the sensitivity, specificity and accuracy of identifying methamphetamine (MA) internal payloads in “drug mules” by plain abdominal digital radiography (DR).

Methods: The study consisted of 35 individuals suspected of internal MA drug containers. A total of 59 supine digital radiographs were collected. An overall calculation regarding the diagnostic accuracy for all “drug mules” and a specific evaluation concerning the radiological appearance of drug packs as well as the rate of clearance and complications in correlation with the reader's experience were performed. The gold standard was the presence of secured drug packs in the faeces.

Results: There were 16 true-positive “drug mules” identified. DR of all drug carriers for Group 1 (forensic imaging experienced readers, n = 2) exhibited a sensitivity of 100%, a mean specificity of 76.3%, positive predictive value (PPV) of 78.5%, negative predictive value (NPV) of 100% and a mean accuracy 87.2%. Group 2 (inexperienced readers, n = 3) showed a lower sensitivity (93.7%), a mean specificity of 86%, a PPV of 86.5%, an NPV of 94.1% and a mean accuracy of 89.5%. The interrater agreement within Group 1 was 0.72 and within Group 2 averaged to 0.79, indicating a fair to very good agreement.

Conclusion: DR is a valuable screening tool in cases of MA body packers with huge internal payloads being associated with a high diagnostic insecurity. Diagnostic insecurity on plain films may be overcome by low-dose CT as a cross-sectional imaging modality and addressed by improved radiological education in reporting drug carriers on imaging.

Advances in knowledge: Diagnostic signs (double-condom and halo signs) on digital plain radiography are specific in MA “drug mules”, although DR is associated with high diagnostic insecurity and underreports the total internal payload.

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1 citation in Web of Science®
1 citation in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Legal Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:340 Law
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2014
Deposited On:19 Mar 2014 13:52
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:42
Publisher:British Institute of Radiology
ISSN:0007-1285
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1259/bjr.20130472
PubMed ID:24472728

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