Suffering from medical negligence is always scary, but something as when your healthcare team misreads something as seemingly basic as radiological tests, it can add frustration to the fear. Misinterpreting scans or test results could lead to a misdiagnosis and expensive treatment for the patient. On the other hand, not catching something present could mean a patient does not receive the help they need. An experienced medical malpractice attorney could help you parse where the error originated.
A meticulous Pittsburgh radiology errors lawyer could work to hold the negligent party accountable by recovering damages for your losses.
What is Radiology Malpractice?
Radiology malpractice is more common than many people realize. Over 80 million radiology examinations are performed in the United States every year. These radiology examinations include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Computed Tomography (CT or CAT scan), Positron Emission Tomography (PET scan), and X-Ray studies, also known as plain radiographs. Given the immense volume of imaging studies and high expectations on radiologists to interpret those studies with speed and accuracy, it’s no surprise radiology is the eighth most common medical specialty to be implicated in a medical malpractice claim.
Research shows radiologists misinterpret or miss findings entirely on 3%-5% of radiology studies each day. This means that radiologists around the world are reaching the wrong or incomplete conclusion 40 million times each year.
Examples of Radiology Malpractice Cases:
- Communication failures caused a 2-year delay in diagnosis and treatment of a 3 cm pelvic mass representing recurrent endometrial adenocarcinoma in a 55-year-old woman. The mass was identified on CT scans, but the findings were not communicated to a treating physician until the tumor doubled in size and spread inside the pelvis.
- A patient in his 50’s died of sudden cardiac death from cardiac neurofibromatosis 2 ½ years after signs of the disease were reported on a CT scan performed in the emergency department for a cough and fatigue.
- A 60-year-old woman died from advanced lung cancer due to a one-year delay in diagnosis of a lung mass found on a CT angiogram ordered to evaluate lower extremity vascular disease.
- A 47-year-old man died as a consequence of delayed diagnosis of an abdominal germ cell tumor due in part to a radiologist’s failure to provide a differential diagnosis or recommendation for follow up.
Radiologists are trained to look at every part of each image when they review a radiology study. Likewise, while a physician must identify the “indication” or reason why they are ordering the exam and communicate the indication to the radiologist, the radiologist must look for and report all abnormal findings, whether or those findings are related to the reason the treating physician ordered the exam. For example, if a patient’s physician orders a chest x-ray to look for signs of a pneumothorax (collapsed lung), and the radiologist, separate and apart from the pneumothorax, discovers an abnormal mass, the radiologist must report the mass to the physician who ordered the study, even though the mass has no relationship radiologically to the collapsed lung.
Unexpected findings discovered on radiology exams like the mass in the above example are known as “incidental” findings or “incidentalomas.” Such findings are deemed incidental because they are unrelated to the reason for the exam, but may nevertheless have significance to the health of the patient. Radiologists are expected to identify incidental findings apparent on radiology images.
One of the most frequent and devastating mistakes in radiology is the failure to identify a potentially cancerous mass. Some of the most common types of cancers which are missed on radiology studies include colorectal carcinoma on barium enema studies, tumors of the bone on plain x-rays, and breast nodules or tumors on screening mammography. However, probably the most common form of delayed diagnosis of cancer comes in the form of missed lesions of the lung on plain x-ray. (Pinto 2010). The rate by which radiologists miss nodules or other lesions on x-ray images that are later diagnosed as lung cancer has been reported to range from 12% to 90%.
A compassionate attorney in Pittsburgh could use the patient’s medical records to build a case for a radiology error causing further harm.
Pittsburgh Statute of Limitations
The law limits the amount of time you have in which to file a medical malpractice case in Pennsylvania.
- Statute of Limitations: You typically have two years from the date of injury to file a medical malpractice case in Pennsylvania.
- Minors Tolling Statute: In a case where the victim is a child (under 18), the statute of limitations does not apply until the child reaches 18. This means that a claim must be filed before the child turns 20.
- Discovery Rule: If the injury is not discovered immediately the discovery rule may extend the amount of time in which you can file your claim.
Contact a Pittsburgh Radiology Errors Attorney Today
If you have been harmed by a radiologist’s mistake, you do not have to fight it alone. Reach out to a Pittsburgh radiology errors lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you file within the accepted timeframe.