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Medical Malpractice – Misread of Imaging Studies

The core of many medical malpractice cases involves the misread of one of the various forms of imaging studies: X-ray, MRI, CAT scan and Mammography. As with any medical malpractice claim, the malpractice attorney must start with the ability to prove the mistaken interpretation. That is done through a review of the matter by a qualified radiologist experienced in the technique and interpretation of the image in question (the “expert”).

What cannot be forgotten is that the misinterpretation is only the starting point of the medical malpractice case analysis. The expert has to try to recreate the original radiology process, reviewing the studies with the same information in mind that the alleged malpracticing radiologist would or should have had at the time of the original interpretation. The expert’s opinion must not only support a misread or incorrect analysis, but also that there was no reasonable or supportable basis for that incorrect interpretation. A misread cannot stand alone.

This is so, because the expert has the benefit of knowing how it all turned out, and is looking at the images with hindsight – i.e. the knowledge there was something there that was eventually discovered. The expert must be able to show how the image could not and should not have been misinterpreted, given what the alleged malpracticing radiologist should have known about the reason for the imaging study and the historical factors he or she had to know about the patient.

That approach applies, no matter what type of imaging study is being analyzed from the perspective of a medical malpractice case. The problem with any medical malpractice suit, arising from a misread of an imaging study is that the alleged malpracticing doctor did not cause the diagnosed condition. The most that can be said is that he or she delayed the diagnosis.

This leads to the next hurdle in a medical malpractice case: proving the delay caused or substantially contributed to a significant change in prognosis or successful treatment options. The medical malpractice attorney must be aware that it is the disease that caused the injury or ongoing problem. He or she must be aware of the medicine, both radiological and in whatever area the missed disease or injury process is, so that proper evidence is gathered to show the radiologist’s miss triggered the significant worsening in the treatability and treatment outcome.

Unlike some other areas of medical malpractice litigation, there are always at least two [2] areas of medicine involved in establishing the radiological malpractice: radiology and those other areas having to do with the resulting injury or disease and the impact of delayed diagnosis and treatment.

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