What is a Radiological Misdiagnosis

Diagnostic mistakes can happen across all areas of medicine, leading to different levels of consequences.

As medical imaging is a widely used source in overall diagnostic process for the majority of conditions, this can also lead it to be a heavy potential contributor to misdiagnosis. Radiology plays an essential part in not just the diagnosis but also the ongoing care of patients with long-term treatment needs.

A review found a real time error rate among radiologists in their day to day practices averages 3-5%, but also quoted previous research showing patients that were subsequently diagnosed with lung or breast cancer with previous normal relevant radiologic studies, retrospective reviews of chest radiographs (in ling cancer cases) or mammogram (in breast cancer cases) identified the lung cancer in as many as 90% and the breast cancer in as many as 75% of cases. [Berlin 2007]

Types of Errors

Medical negligence claims for compensation may be brought if there has been a mistake in the radiology process, whether it be in the performance of the scan, interpretation, communication following a scan and can be due to user error, or even a machine that is faulty and incorrectly calibrated resulting in erroneous results.

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Technique or image acquisition errors- Mistakes occur due to technical limitations of the machine or the user.
  • Perceptual errors – When the radiologist fails to identify an abnormality that is there to be seen.
  • Cognitive or interpretive errors – this is where abnormality or a normal variant may be read but it’s meaning, or importance is misunderstood in the context of the particular patient.
  • Communication errors – Failure to effectively communicate the results to the treating doctors

The most common ‘misses’

The most common or typical radiological misdiagnosis are either missed fractures to the bone or missed diagnosis of cancer. The most common areas of the body where failure to identify a fracture include femur, navicular bones (found in ankles and wrists) and cervical spine. In relation to cancers, failure to identify shadows or anomalies are common.

The Harmful Impact of Radiology misdiagnosing

When a radiologist makes a mistake, it can result in serious health complications. It can lead to the wrong diagnosis, which will be detrimental to the patient, it can pro-long an illness or delay treatment, in even more severe cases, if a condition goes unnoticed, it can result in death. It should be kept in mind that effective communication between radiologists, radiology technicians, patients and clinicians is one of the key factors in reducing errors and thereby enabling proper patient management.

If you feel that you have been subject to medical negligence in misdiagnosis then please do not hesitate to contact us and we can do what we can to assist and advise. We have the medical negligence specialists and expertise to do so.

If you wish to start a claim, you can visit our website.