Malpractice Lawsuits for Radiology Errors in Pennsylvania
Radiology Errors Can Have Serious Consequences for Patients, Including Misdiagnosis, Delayed Diagnosis, and Inappropriate Treatment, Which Can Compromise Their Safety and Medical Procedures
Radiology is a life-saving technique that uses different types of radiation to create images of the inside of the human body. The miracle is that it does it non-invasively. These images are used by healthcare professionals to diagnose, monitor, and treat medical conditions.
In-Depth Look at Radiology and Its Different Forms
There are several imaging modalities, each with its own principles and applications. Here’s how they work and the type of information they provide:
X-rays are high-energy electromagnetic waves. When X-rays pass through the body, different tissues (such as bones, muscles, and organs) absorb or transmit varying amounts of radiation. X-rays produce two dimensional (2D) images and are commonly used to detect fractures, bone infections, lung problems, and some soft tissue conditions.
Computed Tomography (CT)
Computed Tomography (CT) scans use X-rays combined with advanced computer technology to create detailed cross-sectional images of the body. The X-ray source rotates around the patient, capturing multiple images from different angles. The computer then compiles these images into detailed 2D and 3D images. CT scans are used for more precise imaging of bones, internal organs, blood vessels, and soft tissues. They can help identify tumors, blood clots, and internal injuries.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create highly detailed images of the body’s internal structures. It does not use radiation. MRI is used to examine soft tissues like the brain, spinal cord, muscles, and organs. It’s valuable for diagnosing conditions such as neurological disorders, tumors, and joint injuries.
Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images. A transducer sends sound waves into the body, and as they bounce off different tissues and return to the transducer, they create images on a screen. This is commonly used for examining the abdomen, heart, blood vessels, and developing fetuses during pregnancy.
Nuclear medicine involves the use of radioactive materials (radiopharmaceuticals) that are injected, inhaled, or swallowed by the patient. These materials emit gamma rays that are detected by specialized cameras. It can help diagnose conditions like cancer, thyroid disorders, bone conditions, and assess organ function.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans use a radiopharmaceutical that emits positrons (positively charged electrons). When a positron encounters an electron, they annihilate each other, releasing gamma rays in opposite directions. PET scanners detect these gamma rays and create images that show metabolic activity in the body. PET scans are often used to detect cancer, evaluate brain function, and assess the effectiveness of cancer treatments.
Safeguarding Patients Lives Through Proper Image Interpretation
Radiologists specialize in interpreting the diagnostic images produced by the processes mentioned above. They must read the images accurately to uncover possible medical problems. They communicate with the referring physician about their findings.
However, one radiology error could have a snowball effect on the rest of the patient’s life: he or she could be treated for the wrong condition or not treated at all. A patient may suffer for no reason because of a misread image or scan.
Frequent Elements Leading to Radiology Errors
With the array of useful tools listed above, that give insight into how a human body is functioning, a radiologist is an essential part of the healthcare team.
However, there is a lot of potential for error in radiology, and these errors can have serious consequences for patients.
Radiologists may misinterpret or overlook abnormalities in the images. This can lead to misdiagnosis or missed opportunities for early intervention. Also, if a radiologist and the patient’s physician don’t communicate an urgent finding, or miscommunicate about the patient’s past history or a radiologist’s current diagnosis, disaster can ensue.
Radiology departments are so busy with large volumes of images that errors can be made if an image is mislabeled, or if patient names or medical records are mixed up. Equipment can fail, which affects the accuracy of the images and therefore the diagnosis. Radiologists can feel pressured, even burnt out, in the fast-paced environment of a radiology department. A rushed interpretation can be a wrong interpretation.
And radiologists, being human, can be influenced by their expectations and fall into the trap of confirmation bias, where they see what they expect to see in an image, potentially overlooking important findings.
A Real-life Example of How Serious Radiology Malpractice Can Be
A 30-year-old Pennsylvania woman spent 11 weeks in a coma because of a series of radiology errors, as reported by MSNBC. She went to an emergency room with a headache. The doctor suspected a cerebral hemorrhage, which can be fatal, and ordered a CT scan of her brain. The scan was taken but was sent to another hospital to be read. The doctor there did not detect a hemorrhage but thought she possibly had a tumor. This was not life-threatening, and she was sent home with painkillers.
Twelve hours later, she was in so much pain, she called an ambulance. She got a more detailed scan. The scans were sent to a series of radiology contract companies and subcontracting companies and finally to a radiologist subcontractor working from home in Hong Kong. He noted too much fluid around the woman’s brain, but he didn’t say what it meant—and that it can be fatal.
It appeared in this situation as though everyone thought that someone else was going to connect the dots. She was sent home from the ER and found unconscious the next day. The breakdown in communication meant that she was in a coma for 11 weeks.
Domino Effect of Radiology Errors
As you can see, radiology errors can have big consequences for patients. These errors can result in a delayed or incorrect diagnosis, which may allow the disease to progress and be more difficult to treat later. Errors may lead to treatment for the wrong disease, exposing patients to unnecessary risks, side effects, and costs. They may result in suboptimal patient care, leading to worsened medical outcomes, such as in the case of the Pennsylvania woman, above. They can lead to greater patient anxiety and stress. Errors can also lead to potential legal and ethical issues for the radiologist and the healthcare system he works in.
To minimize radiology errors, healthcare institutions and professionals should prioritize patient safety, invest in ongoing education and training, implement quality control measures such as computerized double-check systems, and maintain open lines of communication between radiologists and referring physicians.
Can a Radiologist in Pennsylvania be Subject to a Lawsuit for a Misdiagnosis?
Yes, medical malpractice laws in Pennsylvania, as in other states, allow patients to bring suit when they believe that a healthcare provider, including radiologists, has been negligent and caused harm due to a misdiagnosis or other medical error.
To have a valid medical malpractice claim, you will need to prove that the radiologist breached the standard of care, which is the level of care that a reasonably competent healthcare provider would provide. You must also prove that the breach of the standard of care directly led to your injury or harm.
Bear in mind that Pennsylvania has a statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims. In general, the statute of limitations allows you to file a lawsuit within two years of the date you discover the injury.
Have You Been Affected by Radiology Medical Errors? Contact our Radiologist Malpractice Lawyers for a Complimentary Consultation
Our attorneys at Cohen & Riechelson, who have extensive medical malpractice expertise, can help you by finding the expert testimony you will need to establish the standard of care, show how the radiologist’s actions deviated from that standard, and show a causal connection between the deviation and the harm you suffered. We can help you demonstrate that the radiologist had a duty of care to you and that there was a doctor-patient relationship. Additionally, we can help you show that the radiologist’s actions directly affected your health and led to your injuries. Furthermore, our attorneys can help you show the extent of your physical, emotional, and financial losses resulting from the misdiagnosis. These damages can include medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other related costs.
If you believe you have a valid medical malpractice claim against a radiologist or a radiology department in Jenkintown, Bucks County, Southampton, Fairless Hills, Croydon, Doylestown, Newton, Philadelphia, or anywhere else in Northeast Philadelphia and Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania it’s essential to consult with our experienced medical malpractice attorneys. We can evaluate the circumstances of your case, help you gather the necessary evidence, and guide you through the legal process to seek compensation for your injuries and losses.
A medical malpractice claim is a complex process, so having a knowledgeable attorney on your side is crucial. Call us today at (215) 337-4915 or complete our contact form today to consult with one of our attorneys.