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Radiology errors threaten patient wellbeing

A new study conducted by the Hospital for Special Surgery casts doubt on one of the cornerstones of modern healthcare. The study involved an analysis of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) results gathered from a number of different facilities. The same patient was sent to 10 facilities to have an MRI done on her lower back. The results of these MRIs varied widely.

Lack of consistency

An incorrect diagnosis can have an unfortunate impact on a patient's health. Vital treatment may be delayed while the patient undergoes unnecessary treatment that can do more harm than good. To be useful, MRIs and other radiological testing must provide reliable results. The results in this study showed that the testing is anything but reliable. 

The 10 MRIs led to 49 distinct findings. Of those findings, not one appeared in all 10 results. One of the 49 findings was consistent across none of the 10 results. Sixteen of the 49 findings, nearly a third of the total, appeared in just one of the 10 results. A review of all 10 results found that 56.4 percent of the findings were true-positive and 43.6 percent were misses.

Radiologist error

The inescapable conclusion is that the value of a radiologist's report is remarkably dependent on the individual radiologist. There is little to no way for a patient to know whether the radiologist who analyzes their MRI results is capable of reaching accurate, reliable results. One radiologist is likely to produce a report completely different from the next. It is patients who pay the price for this inconsistency and unreliability.

When effective treatment is delayed or prevented, the patient suffers harm. If you or a loved one have been the victim of errors in diagnosis, you should contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.

Source:, "New Study from Hospital for Special Surgery Reveals Diagnostic Error Rates up to 43%," 12 January 2017 

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