Serious Radiology Errors that Harm Patients

ct scans pixlr

Misdiagnosis is a common but serious medical mistake. According to new research, misreading of CT scans – one variety of patient misdiagnosis - is a leading cause of medical errors that harm patients.

The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurance provider, in early December released the findings of its study into radiology medical malpractice claims (“Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology Closed Claims Study”).  It reviewed nearly 600 medical malpractice lawsuits against radiologists that closed between 2013 and 2018.

The study examined medical malpractice lawsuits involving two specialties within radiology: diagnostic radiology and interventional radiology.  The former involves using imaging equipment such as X-rays and CT scans to diagnosis patients.   The latter uses imaging technology to help guide doctors during actual procedures. When inserting catheters if needed, for example.

There are three broad categories of patient misdiagnosis:

·         Failure to diagnosis patient’s condition

·         An avoidable delay in correctly diagnosing patient

·         Providing a wrong diagnosis of a patient’s condition

These three categories were responsible for the lion’s share of medical malpractice lawsuits filed over mistakes made in diagnostic radiology.  The wrong diagnosis, a delay in diagnosis, or a failure to diagnosis accounted for 85% of the diagnostic medical malpractice claims in the study.

Misreading CT Scan Results

In terms of diagnostic errors that contributed to patient injury, the leading factor was the misreading of CT scans.  A wrong read of a CT scan was the factor in more than one out of three patient injury incidents.

Other diagnostic tests that were read incorrectly and patients were harmed were:

·         Misread of X-ray – 28% of patient injury claims

·         Misread of MRI – 18% of patient injury claims

·         Misread of mammogram – 12% of patient injury claims

All told, the misreading of radiology testing was responsible for 78% of the medical malpractice lawsuits reviewed in the study.

The most common patient harm from errors made in diagnostic radiology included:

·         An undiagnosed malignancy – 35% of medical malpractice lawsuits

·         The death of the patient – 26% of medical malpractice lawsuits

Cancer Misdiagnoses During Radiology

The two leading examples of misdiagnoses during radiology in this study both involved cancer: malignant lumps in the breast and malignant lumps in the lungs.

In addition to misreading tests, the researchers found that miscommunication between medical care providers was another factor in diagnostic radiology errors. For example, a radiologist may have uncovered concerns during testing of an ER patient, but those concerns never made their way to the attending ER doctor.

Still another contributing factor for the medical malpractice lawsuits was improperly maintained CT scanners. There were 71 cases when the scanners were set incorrectly and the patients received excessive radiation exposure.

Improper treatment or procedures accounted for 59% of the interventional radiology claims. Wrongly done procedures included kidney, liver and breast biopsies.

This study shows just how pervasive and consequential mistakes made during radiology can be for patients and their families.  They shouldn’t have to gravely suffer due to such errors that are highly preventable.

If you suffered serious injuries or lost a loved one during medical treatment and you believe an error was involved, contact a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your experience.

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 December 9, 2019


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