Lack of Physician Compliance Identified After Radiologist Suggests Secondary Imaging
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive test used to diagnose and detect medical conditions, especially those that impact the joints, spine and soft tissues such as muscles and tendons. Once the imaging is complete, a radiologist, a doctor who is trained to review the exam images, will send a signed report to the patient’s primary care or referring physician with recommendations for diagnosis or treatment. The treating physician will then share the results with their patient and explain if a follow-up exam or further evaluation is required.
Common use for MRI is to diagnose or evaluate musculoskeletal injuries or diseases:
- joint disorders such as arthritis
- tears of the menisci, ligaments and tendons or rotator cuff and labrum
- spinal disk traumas or herniated disk
- sports-related injuries
- work-related disorders
- tumors involving soft tissues around the joints and extremities
- pain, swelling or bleeding in the tissues in and around the joints
- congenital malformations and developmental abnormalities in children including infants
- congenital and idiopathic scoliosis before surgery
- tethered spinal cord in children including newborns injured during childbirth
Secondary MRIs may be required to identify any changes to a suspected abnormality over time or to determine if a prescribed treatment is working.
Study Says Doctors Are Putting Patients at Risk by Ignoring Secondary MRI Recommendations
Authors of a recent study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology on December 30, 2019, raised concerns regarding the lack of follow-thru recommendations in musculoskeletal MRI reports when additional imaging is requested or suggested.
“The lack of compliance with recommendations can lead to incorrect patient management, poor clinical outcomes and an increase in medical malpractice risk,” according to John S. Nemer, with New York Presbyterian Hospital and his colleagues.
Researchers, including Nemer, from Presbyterian Hospital’s Department of Radiology, looked at hundreds of radiology reports to reach these conclusions.
- Compliance was nearly perfect when a clinical intervention was suggested but dipped to 67% when a report recommended further imaging.
- When radiologists spoke directly to clinicians, compliance rates jumped from 71% to 93%.
- The lack of compliance with recommendations can lead to incorrect patient management, poor clinical outcomes, and an increase in medical malpractice risk.
Musculoskeletal MRI recommendations should be followed by all practitioners to help identify medical concerns and necessary treatment measures. When recommendations for follow-up are ignored or dismissed without a patient’s consent, the likelihood for further patient injuries or disease to occur is high – and medical negligence may be claimed.
Levin & Perconti Case Study: Failure to Diagnose and Treat
In July 2018, a Cook County jury voted to award $12 million to the family of Doris Newberry. The woman’s death occurred three years after a failure to diagnose and treat her lung cancer when a chest x-ray from the St. Alexius Medical Center revealed an abnormality that doctors never told her about. This verdict is higher than any previously reported cancer-related wrongful death verdict or settlement. John Perconti, Mike Bonamarte, and Cari Silverman were the attorneys on the case.
Her family, with the help of the team of attorneys at Levin & Perconti, were able to prove that the defendants — including family practice doctors Dr. Iza, and Dr. Lindahl of Alexian Brothers Medical Group, as well as radiologist Dr. Jeffrey E. Chung, of Radiological Consultants of Woodstock — failed numerous times to diagnose and care for Newberry’s cancer appropriately. As a result, she experienced pain and suffering and disfigurement, and an untimely death, which could have been prevented had her cancer been diagnosed following her 2010 X-ray which revealed a lung abnormality.
- Iza saw Newberry several times between June 2008 and August 2010, including an August visit following a July 2010 chest X-ray that showed abnormal findings.
- Lindahl took over her care in June 2011 and never followed-up on the abnormal chest X-ray finding.
- In December 2012, Newberry was ultimately diagnosed with lung cancer.
- At 70-years-old, she died from Stage 4 lung cancer on September 9, 2013.
The jury’s $12 million judgement included $10 million for Ms. Newberry’s pain and suffering, disfigurement and loss of a normal life and $2 million for the loss experienced by her adult children. The family received money for damages by suing under the Survival Act of the State of Illinois and the Wrongful Death Act of the State of Illinois.
Proving Medical Malpractice for Misdiagnose
Today, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers estimate that medical error, including failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis, is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
In many cases, medical conditions are treatable when caught early. However, failing to diagnose or treat can often lead to further injury or death. To bring a viable medical malpractice claim for misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, patients must prove these three essential elements:
- a doctor-patient relationship existed at the time of the alleged error in diagnosis
- the doctor’s mistake rose to the level of negligence, and
- the patient suffered harm due to that negligence.
Of course, money cannot replace the life of a loved one — but it can help to pay for the extensive medical treatments and care, and pain and suffering due to the careless treatment by a medical professional.
Medical Malpractice Attorneys Located in Chicago
The medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti have spent nearly three decades fighting for victims of preventable medical errors and physician mistakes. From failure to inform a patient of a condition and properly counsel them on treatment and the appropriate medical follow-up, or missed or delayed diagnoses and medication errors, our attorneys have over 130 years of combined experience researching and litigating medical negligence. Request time with one of our medical malpractice attorneys and receive a free and confidential consultation by calling us today at 312-332-2872.