Medical Malpractice Lawyer Cleveland, OH
For a medical malpractice lawyer, radiology malpractice claims typically arise from common medical errors that result in delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis. The mistakes include misinterpretation of films, failure to report incidental findings, miscommunication of critical results, failure correlate findings to clinical symptoms or failure to compare current films to previous films. These categories of radiological negligence are discussed below.
Radiologists typically belong to a practice group that shares responsibility for reading routine and emergency films. Routine films are usually read by members of the radiology group on designated days. Emergency films are read by a radiologist who is designated to receive emergency films for interpretation. The radiologist is often not present at the hospital or imaging facility where the films are taken. In many cases, utilizing telehealth or telemedicine, the radiologist may review the films from a remote location, such as his or her home or office. In some cases, the radiologist is in another State.
The first category of radiology malpractice arises out of the misinterpretation of films. These are often difficult cases. It is difficult to prove that a film was misinterpreted in a way that deviates from accepted standards of care. Radiologists will acknowledge that there is a margin of error in interpreting films. To some extent, the interpretation of films is subjective such that different radiologists will have a different interpretation of the same film. This does not equate to medical negligence unless the interpretation is so out of bounds from acceptable interpretations that it does not comport with accepted standards of medical care. Though a mis-read may seem obvious to a radiologist retained by the patient, the defense will frequently find a hired gun radiology expert to provide an alternate interpretation that is supportive of the defendant radiologist. These cases are very difficult to win at trial because the jury is not equipped to interpret the films themselves. Most films look like a series of cloud-like, unintelligible images that require years of study to properly interpret. When contradicting interpretations are presented to a jury, the jurors frequently find that the plaintiff has not proven their case to a preponderance of evidence.
Another category of radiology negligence is the failure to report so-called incidental findings. Radiologists are required to read the entire film, not just those portions of the film that capture the organs or tissues that are meant to be addressed. For example, if an abdominal CAT scan is taken for the purpose of evaluating a patient who is complaining of severe abdominal pain captures abnormal findings in the lower lobes of the lung that might be consistent with lung cancer, the interpreting radiologist has a duty to evaluate that portion of the film and report those serendipitous findings. A failure to identify readily apparent incidental findings is tantamount to medical malpractice.
Challenges may arise in cases involving a delayed diagnosis of cancer when an incidental finding is not identified or reported. Sometimes, the period of delay in diagnosis will be years. Under Ohio law, the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim does not begin to run until the patient discovers those operative facts necessary to put them on notice of a potential medical malpractice claim. Incidental findings in previous imaging may not come to light for many years. The statute of limitations is tolled until the patient learns of the prior incidental findings that were missed. However, the statute of limitations can be tolled for only up to 4 years. The so-called statute of repose puts an absolute time limit of 4 years on claims arising out of delayed diagnosis. However, when a delayed diagnosis resulting from failure to identify and report an incidental finding results in wrongful death, the wrongful death statute of limitations does not expire until 2 years from the date of death. Ohio courts have not resolved whether the statute of repose applies to wrongful death lawsuits.
A major source of radiology malpractice claims arises in the context of miscommunication of critically abnormal results. Critical results might include evidence of cancer, infection, internal bleeding or perforation of a vital organ. The American College of Radiology publishes guidelines that specify how a radiologist is required to report critical results. The radiologist must include the critical result in plain language in the official radiology report, but also must report those findings verbally to the ordering physician so that the ordering physician is made specifically aware of the critical abnormal finding. In this way, important results should never fall through the cracks resulting in a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis that causes harm or death to the patient.
In addition to the ACR guidelines, hospitals often have bylaws, rules, regulations, policies or procedures that specify how critical radiology and laboratory results should be reported from physician-to-physician and from physician-to-patient. When critical abnormalities are found on imaging, it is absolutely inexcusable for the care providers involved to fail to communicate that information to the patient.
Finally, radiology malpractice may occur when a radiologist or ultrasonographer fails to compare imaging results to prior imaging. When imaging is requested on a stat basis, meaning that the results should be obtained as emergently or urgently as possible, the initial results may be reported in the form of a preliminary or wet read. However, the wet read is always followed by an official interpretation. The standard of care requires that the interpreting physician compare current imaging results with past imaging results. This comparison can be extremely important, particularly since results of imaging can vary when different imaging devices are used.. For example, the results from one MRI might vary from the results on another MRI. In order to obtain an objective interpretation of the results, all prior similar imaging should be compared. I have handled cases where a physician relied upon a wet read that was corrected once the official interpretation was performed.
Radiology reports from different types of imaging, CT scans, MRIs, KUBs, PET scans, sonograms and x-rays, often feature prominently in our review of records. The failure to identify or properly report significant abnormal findings may serve as a basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit when the error results in delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis. If you or a loved one has experienced a delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis resulting in severe personal injury or wrongful death, please contact us to speak with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer Cleveland, OH recommends as soon as possible in order to explore your legal rights. Call Mishkind Kulwicki Law Co., L.P.A., we offer a free initial consultation.