Radiological image artifact

Most artifacts in radiology refer to something seen on an image that are not present in reality but appear due to a quirk of the modality itself. Artifact is also used to describe findings that are due to things outside the patient that may obscure or distort the image, e.g. clothing, external cardiac monitor leads, body parts of carer, etc.

The commonest artifact seen in radiology is image noise, which is inherent to every modality and technique, and can be mitigated but never eliminated.

As an interpreter of imaging it is important to be aware of the main artifacts of the examination being reviewed to avoid issuing an erroneous report. However at times artifacts are welcome because they may be advantageous to the interpreter, making anatomy/pathology easier to appreciate, e.g. posterior acoustic shadowing of gallstones on ultrasound or susceptibility artifact of hemosiderin on MRI.

Types of imaging artifacts

Artifacts by modality

History and etymology

The word artifact derives from the meaning of something that is artificial and not naturally present on the image. The word artefact was first used by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1821. It was derived from the Latin 'arte', the ablative form of 'ars' meaning art, and 'factus', the past participle of 'facere' meaning 'to make'. The form, artifact, spelling with an i and not an e, was first seen in English in 1884 .