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Radiological error could lead to a bad medical diagnosis

| Jan 16, 2017 | Medical Errors

When determining a medical diagnosis, doctors and nurses rely on radiology to get a better look inside the body. Standard procedures such as x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, PET scans and MRIs all fall under the umbrella of radiology. Although these procedures are highly prevalent in the medical field, could they be unreliable?

A recent study published in The Spine Journal in late 2016 found diagnostic error rates were as high as 43 percent across multiple hospitals in the United States. A misdiagnosis can cause great bodily harm for patients seeking treatment. If someone is treated for the wrong illness or ailment, now they may be left hurt by the treatment and still seeking help for their pre-existing condition.

Patients who are misdiagnosed through radiology are at an increased risk of paying for treatment they don’t need, experiencing medical complications and suffering a long-term disability. One doctor quoted in the report called radiological errors “a well-known problem” among medical professionals, but the new study recently unveiled the breadth of the problem across the country.

Incentive to operate

Although an MRI can provide the necessary evidence for surgery, it can also be used to misdiagnose or over-diagnose the need for it. Dr. James Andrews, a leading sports medicine orthopedist, said sometimes the results could be “misleading.”

In 2011, Dr. Andrews scanned the shoulders of 31 professional baseball pitchers. Although the MRIs showed damage to cartilage in 90 percent of the scans, none of the athletes self-reported the existence of an injury or pain before the procedure. Do these pitchers need surgery? Because they reported no pain or injury, probably not, but the MRI results alone might say otherwise.

Doctors can charge nearly $2,000 for an MRI scan, and if they own the machine, they can collect fees from the cost of labor and the insurance company for the procedure. Therefore, they may have an incentive to overuse the system if it makes them money.

Receiving a misdiagnosis for an injury or illness because of a radiological error or overuse can be a trying time in a patient’s life. The doctors who you trusted to treat you are now the ones who have hurt you. Where can you turn for a second opinion? A personal injury law firm with a specialty in medical malpractice will stand by your side when a doctor cannot.

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