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Different types of radiology errors can cause great harm to patients

When a person visits a clinic or emergency room in search of answers and hopefully treatment of a then unspecified ailment, certain tests are rather common place as part of the evaluation. In many cases, this will involve radiology tests and a radiologist, who will review the test results to help identify possible issues and ultimately help to recommend a certain course of action. Unfortunately, just as a surgeon can make an error when performing a complicated procedure, a radiologist can make a mistake that leads to improper care.

Types of Radiology errors

According to a report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, there are a number of ways that a radiologist can fail. The most common error as noted in a 2014 study was under-reading, where the test – for example, a CT scan – shows an abnormality, but the doctor fails to report the issue. The next most common error, “satisfaction of search,” refers to a situation where the radiologist finds an abnormality and then considers the review complete, thus missing additional abnormalities.

There are other, albeit less common, errors according to the study. A radiologist may find an abnormality, but incorrectly attribute it to the wrong cause. The doctor might also miss abnormalities that show up on a scan, but are not specifically part of the area of interest. Further, the radiologist may uncritically rely on previous reports with errors without appropriate review, or simply fail to review prior reports altogether.

Ultimately, the report suggests that radiology errors happen in somewhere between 3-5% of cases. Using the average of 4%, this suggests the possibility of around 40 million radiologist errors each year across the globe.

What to do when a radiologist makes a mistake

Although radiologist errors are thankfully somewhat rare, they can still happen to anyone – including those here in the Tampa area. Because the results of these tests and recommendations made by a radiologist have such an important influence on the subsequent care, any error could be catastrophic – delaying necessary care through a missed abnormality, or even unnecessary treatment due to an obvious misreading of a scan.

When these mistakes happen, the patient can suffer physically, but also emotionally and financially. In such cases, a medical malpractice lawsuit can be vital to help obtain much needed compensation and address the needless error.