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Diagnosis Error Most Common Radiology Malpractice Claim


Missing a diagnosis, most frequently one of breast cancer, is the most common reason U.S. radiologists face a malpractice lawsuit, a study found.

Missing a diagnosis, most frequently one of breast cancer, is the most common reason for a malpractice lawsuit to be brought against a radiologist in the United States, according to a study published in the journal Radiology.

Researchers from the New Jersey Medical School gathered information from 1955 to 2010 that included the malpractice histories of 8,265 radiologists, who were credentialed members of One Call Medical, a preferred provider organization that manages diagnostic imaging for workers’ compensation claims. Not all states were represented as there were no physicians from Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota, or Vermont enrolled with One Call Medical during the study period.

According to the findings, 2,624 of the radiologists, 31 percent, had at least one claim in their career. The most common cause for a suit was diagnostic error, which totaled as 14.83 claims per 1,000 person-years. The most frequently missed diagnosis were, per 1,000 person-years:

• Breast cancer, 3.57 claims
• Nonspinal fracture, 2.49 claims
• Spinal fractures, 1.32 claims
• Lung cancer, 1.26 claims
• Vascular disease, 1.08 claims

Some of the other more common suits were regarding procedural complications (1.76 claims), and radiologist-referrer communication (0.71 claims). There were few claims for failure to recommend further testing, only 0.41 per 1,000 person-years or for inadequate doctor-patient communication (0.40 claims).

Overall, 1,515 radiologists had been sued once in their career, while 599 had been sued twice and 486 three or more times. Radiologists in New York, Indiana, New Jersey, Utah, Florida, and Pennsylvania were among the radiologists sued most often and those in Wisconsin, Alabama, North Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Nebraska, the least often.

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