When you need to have an X-ray taken, or undergo an MRI, you will work with a radiologist. Radiology is the department which handles medical imaging. You may expect when having an X-ray or scan taken that the person looking at the image will have a clear understanding of what he or she is seeing, and be able to identify any problems, but this is not always the case.
Error rates for standard X-rays are about 3-5%, but that number significantly increases with procedures such as MRIs, which have up to a 30% error rate. With this kind of error rate, patients may be undergoing unnecessary surgeries more often than the data shows.
Why are radiology errors happening?
Radiologists see a lot of patients on any given day. Often, there is only one radiologist on staff, making for long hours: fatigue and stress can lead to burn out, and both can lead to mistakes.
It can also lead to “tunnel vision” of sorts, where the radiologists are so focused on what they must find, that they tune out everything else, missing anomalies that appear right in front of them. A recent article in Forbes cited a famous example of this by Harvard Medical School. In 2010, when Harvard “conducted a test by superimposing an image of a tiny gorilla on a lung X-ray, 83% of radiologists failed to notice the gorilla, even when it was 48 times the size of the nodule they were looking for. Apparently, these professionals were so busy looking for what they’re trained to find that they completely ignored the gorilla staring at them in the face.”
Add fatigue, stress, and tunnel vision to loud background noise (ringing phones, intercoms, paging systems, patients’ voices) and advanced technical needs (filling out electronic health records, ensuring the machines are working and ready to take photos), and you create an environment where mistakes can and will be made.
Unnecessary surgeries are the real risk
Errors in diagnosis may lead to further radiation exposure if you need to undergo additional scans when the radiologist gets it wrong, but the most worrisome risk is an unnecessary surgery. Surgical errors, anesthesia errors, and poor post-procedural care can leave you with mounting medical bills and a lifetime of pain. They also put you at risk of infection, which can lead to additional treatments and revision surgery. In some cases, insurance companies may deny payment on these procedures, adding to the financial burden of being out of work while you recover.
Being a victim of unnecessary medical procedures caused by radiological misdiagnosis should never happen. If you or a loved one believe you have been a victim of medical malpractice, you need an attorney dedicated to getting you the answers you are owed. To work with the team at Harris Lowry Manton LLP, call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847, our Savannah office at 912-417-3774, or reach out through our contact page. Our Georgia medical malpractice lawyers want to help you.