Imaging exam results are getting lost in translation when ordered for patients who need an interpreter, according to a new study published in Abdominal Imaging.

Researchers from New York University found that non-English speaking patients who undergo MRI have lower quality images than those who speak English as a second language. Lead author radiologist Myles Taffel, MD, and his colleagues explored these communication discrepancies by analyzing a set of abdominal MRI images from 126 patients who were divided into three groups: English speakers, English as a second language speakers, and people who need a translator during MRI.

The images were assessed by radiologists on a scale of 1 to 5 based on the level of respiratory motion artifact and overall image quality. The translator group received the worst scores in both categories, and the readers chalked up the dismal ratings to poor communication between the patient and technologist. Adding a translator as a liaison “may introduce a second level of miscommunication,” wrote the researchers.

The researchers explain that there’s ways to close the communication gap by implementing better precise training protocol for interpreters or having a translator in the room with the patient instead of them calling in. ““Alternative educational tools, such as instructional videos in specific languages viewed in advance of the examination, could also be employed to assist patient understanding of MRI breathing instructions,” write the authors.