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Failure to diagnose irregularities on X-rays may be compensable

Medical negligence claims against radiologists are not uncommon in Louisiana and elsewhere. Radiologists are often liable for providing the patient with the wrong diagnosis or interpretation of the test records. When the failure to diagnose correctly results in injury to the patient, this can be the basis for a determination of medical malpractice against the radiologist.

There are sometimes abnormalities on test films that radiologists fail to recognize or perceive. In such cases, if the patient is harmed by the failure, the radiologist can be held liable to compensate the patient for his or her losses. Thus, if the radiologist provides a written report stating that no growths were seen in a set of chest X-rays and the patient dies of a tumorous growth that appeared on the same X-ray films, there may be a claim for compensatory damages against the doctor.

In the foregoing case, it won't make much difference if the radiologist fails to see a fatal growth that kills the patient three days later. The failure to diagnose in that event would not be the cause of the patient's death. The failure to identify and communicate a life-threatening pathology must occur under circumstances where it was established within a reasonable medical certainty that prompt treatment protocols could have saved and significantly extended the patient's life.

Some cases of medical negligence against radiologists have less to do with failure to diagnose and more to do with the negligent non-communication or miscommunication of a perceived danger. The doctor may simply neglect to mention or specifically distinguish something that was unexpectedly found on the tests, or otherwise fail to notate something that was seen as a danger. These pitfalls make it important for radiological experts in Louisiana and elsewhere to document all irregularities observed and to follow-up with the treating physician to assure that action was taken.  

Source: diagnosticimaging.com, "Malpractice in Radiology", Liza Haar, April 11, 2016

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