We trust radiologists to interpret different types of scans and medical imaging to provide diagnoses or opinions that guide treatment and save lives. But one diagnostic error or missed diagnosis can have life-altering consequences for patients. If you have been a radiology error victim, you may have grounds to file a radiology malpractice lawsuit.
When Does a Radiographic Diagnosis Constitute Malpractice?
Radiology is an important field of medicine. Radiologists are trained medical professionals who can literally see into the body without the need for surgery. Procedures such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), sonograms, and other methods provide doctors and patients with the information they need in order to make informed medical decisions.
Over the course of a day, doctors may call on a radiologist to review a patient’s radiology report to help determine the medical course of action. Doctors may ask them to help determine if the patient has suffered an internal injury that needs surgical correction. Doctors might consult with them to determine if a patient has internal bleeding, a fracture, or other injuries that require correction by other medical experts in order to preserve the patient’s ultimate health.
As such, radiology has a serious and important role in medical practice. If they fail to act properly, the patient can suffer serious medical problems. Missing an abnormality in medical imaging scans isn’t always medical malpractice. But far too often, radiologists overlook evidence of disease that a prudent radiologist wouldn’t miss.
In fact, about 75 percent of medical malpractice lawsuits against radiologists are due to failure to diagnose or communicate any issues found in a radiology report to the patient.
Radiology malpractice claims are not unusual. One study found that nearly a third of all radiologists face lawsuits for a mistake in their career. Most medical malpractice cases settle. However, about half of the radiology malpractice claims that go to trial are successful.
Experts at the National Institute of Health have found that this area of medicine is often subject to medical errors. As a result, radiology is also a medical profession that is likely to lead to medical malpractice suits.
A 2012 report also found that radiology malpractice lawsuits were more likely to occur because the radiologist failed to read the medical chart properly. Other radiology errors that led to a medical malpractice claim included poor technique on behalf of the radiologist and lack of prior experience.
In almost half of all cases, the health professionals did not properly diagnose the patient’s condition. This failure generally falls into one of two categories. Most such problems are when the medical professional fails to find cancer or fails to locate a serious fracture on the radiology reports given to them.
Medical malpractice lawsuits often accuse the radiologist of missing fractures of the femur and bones in the feet and spine. Some may also fail to spot suspicious masses on a mammogram or chest x-ray that suggest breast cancer or lung cancer when another, more reasonable radiologist might have been able to spot this issue and help get it corrected. Patients need these types of masses removed in order to restore their good health.
Types of Radiology Errors
There are a number of reasons why a radiologist may make a medical error that can rise to the level of medical malpractice. such as:
- Failure to see the abnormality on an X-ray or scan. One common radiology malpractice issue occurs when a radiologist misreads a patient’s diagnostic imaging findings. They can do this for a number of reasons, one of which is lack of experience. Radiologists who review a relatively limited number of tests tend to face more radiology malpractice lawsuits. These findings suggest that the less often a doctor examines different types of scans, the more likely they are to fail to detect an abnormality on a radiology report.
- Lack of training or knowledge. Radiologists who do not perform tests properly can give inaccurate readings. They also may not interpret an abnormality correctly if they haven’t received adequate training. These training errors often result in the radiologist failing to order follow-up testing that could have later identified the problem.
- Medication errors. Surprisingly, medication errors resulting in patient safety and harm issues happen relatively frequently in radiology—as much as seven times more often than in other hospital settings, according to a Washington Post report. Radiology patients often receive potentially dangerous medications such as dyes, sedatives, and blood thinners.
- Communication error. Even if an experienced medical professional reviews a patient’s tests properly, interprets the results accurately, and identifies the abnormality, a communication breakdown can result in patients never hearing their diagnosis or hearing it too late. Physicians rely on radiologists to communicate their findings to them about a patient’s radiology scans. If they fail to effectively communicate their findings to the physician, the physician may never know about the abnormality.
Highly Harmful Errors
Radiology medical errors can be quite harmful to patient safety. Officials examined the records of more than 2,000 known radiology errors. They discovered more than 10 percent caused patient injury or harm, making radiology errors seven times more dangerous for patients than medication errors. That’s because radiology plays a huge role in determining the course of the patient’s overall treatment.
A radiologist is a gatekeeper that other medical professionals use in order to decide how to treat the patient. A single radiology error, such as misreading a medical imaging report, can lead to diagnostic errors or a delayed diagnosis. It can also cause the patient to be treated for a medical condition they do not have. Patients who are given treatments they don’t need are at risk of all sorts of complications.
Radiology is not a risk-free venture. A patient who doesn’t have breast cancer, despite the radiologist’s assertation otherwise, may be subject to a debilitating regimen of radiation and chemotherapy that can ultimately seriously threaten the patient’s safety. The same is true of patients with undiagnosed cancer who do not receive treatment or get treated too late. Cancer that might have been nipped in the bud with early treatment may progress until it is impossible to treat.
Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Radiology is not immune to medical malpractice litigation. Those who specialize in radiology can act in ways that are contrary to a patient’s interest. They may argue that a mass is a benign cyst that does not pose a risk to the patient. They may also render a diagnosis that is not correct. The doctor might also fail to work closely with other medical professionals. A radiologist may not do a good job communicating their findings to others who are part of the patient’s medical team.
For example, a pregnant woman went for a scan to check on the progress of her pregnancy. The scan found that her baby was in grave danger. Instead of letting her obstetrician know of this finding, the radiologist wrote down his findings without immediately calling another medical professional to tell them they advised immediate action. The woman’s baby survived but suffered greatly from the radiologist’s actions. Negligent acts like this often result in medical malpractice claims.
This is merely one example of the kind of help that our Chicago radiology malpractice and errors lawyers handle.
Medical Malpractice Claims
Our team of Chicago radiology malpractice and errors lawyers at Zayed Law Offices are skilled at representing clients with medical malpractice claims. We can help anyone wronged make sure they receive all appropriate compensation. Our team provides the help you need to get the assistance required under the law.