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Fake News: Media Coverage of Interventional Radiology in the Melania Trump Embolization Case


D. Foote, A. Goud, S. Park

Abstract Number

Purpose: As interventional radiology (IR) practices develop their own patient bases, the media has been an underused tool to increase patient awareness of the role of IR. Using the data gained from the high-profile case of Melania Trump's presumed angiomyolipoma and renal artery embolization, we hope to identify future opportunities for increasing IR visibility.

Materials and Methods: Up to 93% of Americans get at least some of their news online. After Melania Trump's kidney embolization, online searches for “Embolization” increased by 145,000%. Using the search terms “Melania Trump Embolization,” “Melania Trump Surgery,” and “Melania Trump Kidney” in Google trends, metadata showed interest peaked during the period May 13 to 19, 2018. The same search query was used in Google News, an online news headline aggregator, as well as the websites of newspapers and digital-native news sites. Radio and video segments from cable news, broadcast networks, and public radio station were reviewed. Only digitally available articles, audio, and video originating in the United States between May 13 and 19, 2018, from three broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC), the three major cable news networks (Fox News, CNN, MSNBC), public radio (NPR), the top 50 newspapers, and the top 36 digital-native news sites based on Pew Research Center data were included. A total of 90 articles and 9 radio or TV news segments were reviewed.

Results: A total of 48 of 90 articles featured 1 or more physicians. Only 4 of 48 articles quoted an interventional radiologist. There were 36 articles featuring 1 or more urologists, 11 featuring 1 or more nephrologists, 2 featuring a neurosurgeon, and 1 featuring a gastroenterologist. The 9 radio and TV segments reviewed generally featured the network's medical correspondent. Cardiology, neurosurgery, emergency medicine, rheumatology, family medicine, and Obstetrics and Gynecology were represented. Two interviews featured a urologist, 1 interview featured a nephrologist, and 1 featured an interventional radiologist, but the interviewee was not identified as an interventional radiologist.

Conclusions: Interventional radiologists perform a wide array of medical procedures that generate significant public interest but are currently underrepresented in the media. As IR continues to grow into an independent specialty, opportunities to educate the public on our role in patient care should be seized.

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