December 13, 2012

Failure to Diagnose Breast Cancer Top Radiology Error

by Levin & Perconti

Diagnostic Imaging, a publication geared toward radiologists, published an interesting story discussing trends in the most common medical malpractice cases where radiologists are named as defendants. Of course, being a defense-oriented report, the story frames the details in certain ways, but the underlying statistics are useful to understand common examples of medical errors in the field.

The article summarizes a report published in the journal Radiology which found that failing to diagnose breast cancer was the single most common medical mistake among radiologists. The data in this research project found that about three to four patients out of every 1,000 fell victim to a misdiagnosis of breast cancer. In virtually all of those cases the signs of the cancer should have been caught by the medical professionals but were missed. The patients are usually diagnosed later, with the delay in treatment having varying effects on the long-term harm and ability to fully recover.

Beyond that, misdiagnosis in all forms was far and away the most common mistake which led to a malpractice lawsuit for radiologists. Besides breast cancer, failure to catch non-spinal fractures was the second-most common missed reading. That was followed by spinal fractures, lung cancer, and vascular disease. When all misdiagnosis mistakes are combined, anywhere from 14 to 15 patients per 1,000 are affected. This is not an insignificant number, meaning that thousands are harmed by this problem every year.

Beyond diagnostic problems, the research found that other common reasons for suits relate to “procedural complications,” communication errors between medical teams, and failure to order follow up tests.

It is important to note that this research refers to data collected from a very wide period of time--1955 to 2010. There very well may be trends such that the most common problems today are not reflected entirely in this research--historical rates may slightly distort the data. However, it remains a good barometer for the general issues that are present in malpractice cases for those charged with reading medical test results.

Lawyers for Delayed and Missed Diagnosis
Medical patients sometimes fail to understand that their current ailment could and should have been diagnosed earlier. After all, you rely on the expertise of medical professionals and if they did not identify a problem earlier, then you assume it could not have been identified with our current abilities. Often that is not true. Sadly, mistakes in reading test slides and results are common. Serious harm (and even death) can sometimes be traced back to those errors.

That is not to say that doctors are always able to identify problems early on. But there are recognized standards in the field which must be followed at all times. If a lawsuit is filed in the matter, outside experts will examine the test slides and explain, given the information in the test, whether or not is was reasonable for the medical professionals to miss the diagnosis. If it was unreasonable, then malpractice has been committed and accountability and redress need to be had.

For help with these issues in Chicago or throughout Illinois, please take a moment to contact our attorneys today.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Misdiagnosis Leads to Amputation & Med Mal Lawsuit

Misread Pap Smear Leads to Delay in Cervical Cancer Diagnosis