I read something similar to this on the radiologist's report for a chest/abdominal CT scan with contrast, in a section headed "NARRATIVE" and a sub-section headed "HISTORY." This is the only content in that sub-section:

Patient history with observations r/o exampletotis r/o madupitis.

A little web searching found me a handful of dictionaries that tell me the "r/o" abbreviation means "rule out" but none of them told me whether this is a conclusion or an instruction, or grammatically, whether the verb "rule" is being used in a declarative or imperative sense.

To be more explicit, in which of the two following ways should I interpret the report?

Based on the patient's history and what is seen in this scan, exampletotis and madupitis have been ruled out.


Based on the patient's history and what is seen in this scan, patient and his physician should pursue additional means in order to rule out exampletotis and madupitis.

Further background: The patient in question has a follow-up scheduled with the physician and will likely have an answer in a month or so anyway, but I'd like to clear up confusion in the interim and perhaps benefit others looking for the same information.

  • I'd have to know what kind of report it is, where it is on the report, and what the rest of the report says. The example snippet is ambiguous. Again, depending on the circumstances, radiologists will be more clear about structures (e.g., well defined fluid filled mass) but more circumspect about what they mean clinically (could be a, b, c... consider 1, 2, 3...). The ordering physician will be able to put it together in a visit, but one could call the office to ask, e.g., a nurse, ahead of time to help you interpret. They may tell you to wait for the appointment, but there is no harm in asking
    – De Novo
    Feb 13, 2019 at 18:03
  • @DeNovo - The report is for a chest/abdominal CT with contrast. This is from the report written by the radiologist. The report was divided into sections and subsections, and my paraphrased excerpt is from the "NARRATIVE" section "HISTORY" sub-section. I am unwilling to say more to protect the privacy of this patient.
    – cobaltduck
    Feb 13, 2019 at 18:10
  • Edit your question to include the location of the snippet in the report.
    – De Novo
    Feb 13, 2019 at 18:13
  • @DeNovo - Done. However, I was trying to keep this general interest, and it has now become rather specific to this case. Is there not a general rule for the use "r/o" in reports?
    – cobaltduck
    Feb 13, 2019 at 18:17
  • The general case is ambiguous. The location of the phrase in the report answers the question here :)
    – De Novo
    Feb 13, 2019 at 18:22

1 Answer 1


A full radiology report typically contains several sections, similar to a progress note. The "HISTORY" section discusses the medical history and possibly indications for the imaging. Here, r/o means neither "has been ruled out" nor "should be ruled out in the future". It means the patient has such and such a history and this imaging test was done in order to rule out these things.

To find out what the radiologist concludes, look for an "IMPRESSION" section.

Source: I'm answering based on my education and experience, but a search for "parts of a radiology report" returns this helpful learning module from the University of Virginia.

  • 4
    Perfect answer.
    – DoctorWhom
    Feb 13, 2019 at 19:24

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