One of the main duties of a radiologist is to read and interpret the results from medical imaging. A physician who believes an imaging test would help to diagnose and treat a patient will order them. This could involve magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-rays, computed tomography or CT Scan and more. The results are then given to a radiologist to interpret. These medical professionals will send the test results as well as their interpretations to the physician who ordered the tests.
It is possible for a radiologist to have a lawsuit filed against them for medical malpractice. The goal in such a lawsuit is to show that it’ reasonable to expect a competent radiologist to note any type of abnormality identified after examining medical imaging. The plaintiff will work hard to convince a jury the radiologist failed to meet an expected level of care. They will try to prove the radiologist did not perform their duties like a reasonably competent radiologist.
It is possible for a radiologist to misread an image. They could be focused on a medical condition when they should look more closely for the presence of medical problems. The reality is that such mistakes can cause serious physical damage to a patient’s health. If a person is sent for a chest X-ray to identify pneumonia, and the radiologist fails to identify a mass in their lungs that is cancerous, it could have tragic results. This could result in serious cancer treatments. Should the cancer have been identified at the time of a pneumonia X-ray, the chances of successfully dealing with it may have been much greater.
There are three different types of identified actionable results that require communication. Deficiencies in any of them could result in a lawsuit.
CATEGORY 1: COMMUNICATION WITHIN MINUTES
These are results that could cause death or serious morbidity if not immediately communicated. These results need to be communicated as fast as possible and acted upon. In this situation, direct verbal communication with the physician ordering the images needs to be done without delay.
CATEGORY 2: COMMUNICATION WITHIN HOURS
These results are clinically significant. These are findings that clarify a patient’s acute presentation to their physician. This condition will need to have specific medical treatment or surgical procedure. These results are often sent by a phone message, secure fax or Email.
CATEGORY 3: COMMUNICATION WITHIN DAYS
These results do not require any immediate action or treatment. This could be a condition that needs to be treated to avoid problems in the long term. In many cases, these conditions will require follow-up imaging that can safely take place after a few months.
New Jersey Radiologists
A study was conducted by the Journal of Radiology concerning diagnostic errors and missed diagnoses. This was done to discover the reasons for malpractice lawsuits against radiologists. The history of over 8,000 radiologists was reviewed. Approximately 2,600 had a minimum of one medical malpractice claim against them during their career. The study also showed the most common diagnostic error was associated with breast cancer. Other common missed diagnoses included spinal and non-spinal fractures, lung cancer as well as vascular disease. The study also identified radiologists from New Jersey as some of the most frequently sued in the nation.
There are a number of different errors that may result in medical malpractice lawsuits.
*Failure to request a follow-up test or consult with a specialist when the initial tests show identifiable warning signs of a serious condition.
*There is a possibility of mechanical X-ray errors. This involves taking an image of the wrong part of a patient’s body from an incorrect angle.
*Not correctly interpreting an oncology report, pathological study or another type of laboratory test report.
*Not correctly interpreting images provided from an angiogram, X-ray, MRI, EKG or another specialized testing utilized to identify brain injury, fractures, breast cancer, obstructed cardiac conditions and more.
A report was done by the Center for the Advancement of Patient Safety (CAPS). It showed that medication mistakes that cause patients harm are six times more likely to occur when a patient is receiving radiological services when compared to other areas of a hospital. In some situations, drugs must be administered as part of radiological services. The most common mistake was giving patients the wrong dosage of medication, wrong drug or not getting all the required medication.