What Radiologists Are Missing Could Cost Your Life [infographic]
When radiologists make errors with x-rays, MRIs and ultrasounds they put their patients’ health, and lives, at risk. Failing to detect or report abnormalities found with imaging procedures is considered medical negligence. When patients’ outcomes are negatively affected by this negligence, they or their loved ones could consider filing a medical malpractice claim.
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Radiologist Malpractice Complaints
Approximately one billion radiological tests are performed worldwide each year. Out of these tests, it is estimated that errors are made 3-5% of the time.
There are four main categories of malpractice complaints filed against radiologists.
1. Observer Errors
Observer errors account for almost 50 percent of all malpractice claims for radiologists. These are errors where obvious abnormalities were present on scans, but the radiologist missed them. The most commonly missed diagnoses that lead to malpractice claims are undiagnosed cancers and fractures. A study of the most frequent reasons for malpractice suits per 1,000 patients showed that:
- Breast cancer is the most commonly missed diagnosis with an average of 9.41 malpractice suits
- Nonspinal musculoskeletal misdiagnoses account for 6.56 malpractice claims
- Spinal musculoskeletal misdiagnoses average 3.47 malpractice suits
- Pulmonary misdiagnoses account for 3.31 malpractice claims
- Gastrointestinal misdiagnoses account for 3.28 of claims
- Intracranial/brain scan errors average 3.25 malpractice suits
2. Interpretation Errors
An interpretation error is an error in judgment by the radiologist. An x-ray or scan might have shown an abnormality, like a malignant tumor, but the radiologist dismissed it as nothing to be concerned about instead of erring in caution. He or she might make this conclusion because of inexperience or lack of concern.
3. Failure to Recommend Follow-Up
When abnormalities are found, it is the radiologist’s duty to advise both the patient and doctor that there might be a need for follow-up testing. If indicated, the radiologist is responsible for recommending additional radiographic testing when needed for a proper diagnosis.
4. Failure to Communicate
A radiologist could be liable if he or she fails to send a written report to the patient’s physician detailing the findings of the diagnostic imaging tests that were done. The doctor who has ordered these tests depends on the results to determine what treatment is needed for the patient. When reports are delayed, or errors are made in the reports, the risk of an adverse outcome increases.