I want to share with you the facts of a very sad case recently reported in a legal journal. A 58 year old male smoker underwent a routine physical, which included a chest x-ray. The x-ray was interpreted as normal by a reviewing radiologist. Three years later, the patient was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. Despite chemotherapy, radiation and other therapies, he died 20 months after his diagnosis.
The patient’s wife sued the radiologist for failing to identify a suspicious 1.5 centimeter mass in the left lung which was visible on the x-ray. The lawsuit alleged that had the mass been identified an appropriate follow up CT scan would have resulted in a prompt diagnosis of the cancer, and surgery to remove the mass would have had a 70 percent chance of cure. No surprisingly, the trial resulted in a substantial verdict for the patient’s widow.
My Take: Radiologists sit in darkened rooms looking at hundreds if not thousands of images every day. Images of bones, kidneys, lungs, pancreases, brains, livers, and more. Some of those radiologists are not working in the hospital radiology department but may be in their house sitting in their pajamas interpreting the images via a process known as “teleradiology”…not very reassuring to me. We have written extensively on medical malpractice by radiologists and the problems with teleradiology: