CT scan read errors a leading cause of patient injury

Errors reading CT scans are one of the most likely results of patient injury, according to a recent study of claims against diagnostic and interventional radiologists.

The results of the study, by The Doctors Company, provides evidence of the increasing complexity of radiologists’ workloads and how artificial intelligence-based tools might provide essential support that could reduce mistakes.

The study by The Doctors Company, the nation's largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer, found that misinterpretation of scans and films—particularly CT scans—is the leading cause of patient injury involving diagnostic radiologists. The study analyzed closed malpractice claims against both diagnostic and interventional radiologists.

The study involved physician experts who reviewed claims and conducted medical record reviews to gain an accurate and unbiased understanding of what led to patient injuries. The analysis found:
  • The top contributing factor to patient injury was misinterpretation of diagnostic studies, occurring in 78 percent of cases.
  • The most common injury from misinterpretation of a diagnostic study was an undiagnosed malignancy.
  • CT scans were a factor in 34 percent of the cases involving misinterpretation of diagnostic studies.

"The findings in this study, especially those involving CT scans, should be noted by all diagnostic radiologists and clinicians," says Bradley N. Delman, MD, a neuroradiologist and vice chair for quality in radiology at New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital. "It appears that communication between radiologists and clinicians is happening more effectively than shown in a prior survey of claims, but with 18 percent of injuries still associated with poor communication between physicians, we still have plenty of room for improvement."

In claims against interventional radiologists, physician experts found:
  • The top contributing factor to injury was technical performance, occurring in 76 percent of claims—most involving patients who suffered poor outcomes after invasive procedures.
  • In 65 percent of these cases, the correct procedure was performed appropriately, even when the patient suffered an undesirable outcome.
  • Only 11 percent of claims were found to be caused by poor technique or performed on an incorrect body site.

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