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Radiology Misses and Misdiagnosis

By Ashton J. Hyde on December 08, 2017


Radiology Misdiagnosis and Liability

What Radiologists Do

Radiologists are specialists who interpret medical imaging such as X-Rays, CT Scans, ultrasounds, and MRIs.  They are responsible for identifying and describing any abnormalities present in the images they are viewing.  Typically, a physician will order an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan when they suspect an injury or illness inside the body.  The physician decides the area of the body and the type of image to order. The radiologist reviews the images and looks for abnormalities in the scans.  Once the radiologist reviews the images they issue a written report identifying the anatomy reviewed and both normal and abnormal findings.  Thorough radiologist are essential to recognize abnormal findings that could suggest illness, trauma, cancer, or progress following surgery.

 

The Radiologists’ Duty

Radiologists are responsible for locating abnormalities that may indicate the presence of diseases or injuries, such as:

  • Broken or fractured bones;
  • Aneurysms;
  • Bleeding in the brain;
  • Cancer or Tumors;
  • Bowel obstructions or leaking;
  • Pneumonia; and
  • Appendicitis.

Radiologists are required to read the whole scan for abnormalities instead of just looking for the injury or illness that prompted the physician to order the scan. Abnormal findings that may not have been in the scope of what the ordering physician was looking for is known as an incidental finding.  For example, if a radiologist finds evidence of a cancerous tumor or growth while looking for a broken rib after a patient falls on their bike, they must record and report that tumor to the physician. If they fail to do so, that radiologist may be liable for malpractice.

Radiologists may not always be required to know exactly what the abnormality on a scan or image represents, but they must report it and allow the physician to decide how to further investigate the abnormality.  Radiologists are also responsible for describing limitations of an image and recommending additional imaging that will more clearly depict an abnormality.   

Common Mistakes Radiologists Make

Radiologists make two common types of mistakes when diagnosing a patient: perception errors and cognitive errors. Perception errors occur when the radiologist does not see something or missed an abnormality that is present on the scan. These account for the majority of radiologist misdiagnoses. Cognitive errors occur when the radiologist notices an abnormality on the scan, but misinterprets what that abnormality means. Some examples of a cognitive error include: reading a normal test as abnormal, reading an abnormal test as normal, or failing to grasp the severity of an abnormal scan.

Radiologists can see up to 15,000 cases a year, which means that even an excellent radiologist will likely misread several scans over the course of their career. When medically significant abnormalities are missed, it can lead to delayed detection and treatment of diseases or injuries. This can result in exacerbated harm to the patient, and even death.  Radiology misses can be harmless or life threatening.  Life threatening radiology misses include missed tumors, cancer, brain bleeding, bowel perforation, pneumonia, and aortic abnormalities.   

How an Attorney Can Help You

If you or a loved one suspect that a radiology misinterpreted or misread your films, it may be a result of a radiologist’s failure to exercise due caution. If so, you will need professional help evaluating your claims. The attorneys at Younker Hyde Macfarlane have extensive experience prosecuting medical negligence.  They will assist you in evaluating and prosecuting all valid claims you may have.

Contact the Medical Malpractice Team at Younker Hyde Macfarlane

For more information about your legal options related to a serious injury or illness that went unnoticed because of a radiologist’s failure to exercise due caution, please contact our team of medical malpractice attorneys today. The legal team at Younker Hyde Macfarlane will fight diligently for you and your legal needs.

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