Medical Negligence

The top 5 radiology cases seen by a specialist law firm

August 11, 2021
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As NHS statistics show that over 39 million imaging tests were carried out between July 2020 and June 2021, leading medical negligence solicitor, Christian Beadell explores the most common radiology cases.

Monday 8th November marks the 10th International Day of Radiology – a day to highlight the role held by radiologists and radiographers, and the technology that helps them carry out their vital work.

Radiology plays an essential role in our healthcare system today, both in the diagnosis and treatment of illness. According to the NHS, there were 39.2 million imaging tests reported in England in the 12 months between July 2020 and June 2021; these include X rays, Ultrasound, CT scans and MRIs.

Radiologists carry out essential medical work that can make all the difference to a patient receiving a life-altering diagnosis. However, the NHS is constantly under pressure, and sometimes things can and do go wrong.

It is important that we highlight the common themes seen by medical negligence professionals in 2021, so that patients and medical experts alike can be vigilant during procedures.

Head of Medical Negligence at Fletchers Solicitors, Christian Beadell, explains some of the top radiology cases being seen by the firm, and why getting a prompt referral is so important.

The top 5 types of radiology cases:

1. Misreporting of radiology

The most common complaint is that the correct radiology has been misreported. This is particularly the case in relation to orthopaedic injuries where an x-ray has been misinterpreted and a fracture has been missed. As a result, if a patient is discharged too early without corrective treatment, they may then miss an opportunity to undergo corrective surgery which can lead to bone malalignment and poor healing. Similarly, failures to recognise potential cancers from imaging can result in life changing delays.

2. Incorrect choice of imaging

This might happen when a less accurate imaging such as X-ray or ultrasound has been chosen when CT or MRI may be more appropriate for the patient’s circumstances. This is sometimes seen where patients are treated in smaller district or cottage hospitals where more expensive scanning facilities may not be available. In those circumstances the treating clinician should refer onwards to avoid any material delay.

3. Failure of equipment during surgery

In a small number of claims we have seen situations where there has been a failure with the imaging equipment during surgery whether due to an unforeseen mechanical fault or a lack of maintenance. Some surgeries are dependent upon accurate imaging, such as in the case of spinal screw fixation surgery and if the machine fails, damage may occur or the procedure may have to be abandoned.

4. Contrast Medium Errors

With the increasing use of scanning requiring contrast medium (a chemical substance which enables areas to be more easily seen on the scan.) we have seen cases where the wrong medium is being used; avoidable allergic reactions and extravasation injuries where the medium has been injected into the surrounding tissue rather than the vein or artery resulting in extensive skin damage.

5. A delay in performing imaging

Timely referral is extremely important; some conditions can progress rapidly and a delay in referring can close a window of opportunity. A fast-tracked scan can mean the difference between a patient receiving a life-saving early diagnosis, and the condition progressing to a level whereby the prognosis is much more serious.

Covid has caused delays in performing scans due to the cancellation of substantial numbers of surgeries, but also now we are seeing the effects of substantial backlogs. Some scans were avoided due to health risks, and time required to decontaminate surfaces in between patients has caused additional difficulties.

Christian concludes:

As with any medical procedure, if you’re not happy with the action, advice or conclusions drawn following the scan, you have the right to ask for another medical professional to look at it.

However, there are a number of recognised complications associated with certain radiological interventions such as stenting procedures or aneurysm surgery (clipping/balloon dilatation) and it’s important to remember that not all complications are due to negligence.

Christian Beadell is Head of Medical Negligence at Fletchers.

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