Diagnostic Errors Involving MRI and CT Scans
CT Scan

A study released last fall concludes that heavier workloads for some physicians can lead to serious diagnostic errors with radiology scans.

In September 2022, American Radiology published the findings of a study conducted by University of Wisconsin researchers (“Impact of Shift Volume on Neuroradiology Diagnostic Errors at a Large Tertiary Academic Center”). The study’s goal was to determine if there is a cause-and-effect relationship between workloads and diagnostic errors made by neuroradiologists.

The study concluded there is. And often times their diagnostic errors are very serious.

The study notes that misdiagnosis is the most common medical error made by radiologists, stating 75% of radiology medical malpractice lawsuits are related to a diagnostic error.

A report published January 2022 by Medscape (“Radiologists Malpractice Report 2021”), an online healthcare publication, found that 64% of radiologists have been sued for medical malpractice. Two-thirds of the lawsuits involved misdiagnosis.

Incorrectly Interpreted Scan Results

The Wisconsin researchers reviewed a database of CT and MRI scan readings conducted by university physicians from 2014 to 2020. They found 654 instances of diagnostic errors.

These errors involved various scans, including:

• Vascular system
• Brain
• Skull
• Spine
• Head/neck
• Bone fractures

The scans that had the most incorrect interpretations were:

• MRIs of the brain
• CTs of the head, and head and neck
• MRIs of the spine

More Test Results To Read Increased Chances Of Serious Errors

More than 90% of the misread scans were deemed “clinically significant.” And these serious medical errors were more likely to be made the more tests physicians had to read.

Researchers found no diagnostic errors when shifts averaged about 34 test results. Diagnostic errors were found during shifts with more tests to read – about 47 scans on average.

About 60% of the radiology diagnostic errors were made in emergency rooms or other hospital settings.

Types Of Medical Misdiagnosis

Medical misdiagnoses typically involve a wrong diagnosis, a missed diagnosis or a delayed diagnosis. These diagnostic errors can cause serious harm to patients when they result in the wrong medical care, no appropriate medical care, or a delay in appropriate medical care.

The study found that radiology diagnostic errors tend to be either interpretive – the significance of the scan finding was correct but downplayed; or perceptual – a missed diagnosis. More than eight out 10 radiology diagnostic errors in the study were perceptual.

The researchers state there are no federal guidelines as to a safe number of scan test readings per shift, but suggest that, to keep patients safe, individual hospitals can and should determine this threshold.

When doctors make treatment mistakes that seriously harm their patients, they should be held accountable. If you suspect you or a loved one was the victim of an error during medical care, speak with a personal injury attorney, who can conduct an investigation to determine all causes and responsible parties.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham. Posted in Blog March 2, 2023.


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