Errors in Radiology Could Result in Misdiagnosis

When x-ray techniques were developed by Wilhelm Rontgen a hundred years ago, they were hailed as a breakthrough in medicine to help eliminate misdiagnosis and, as the science of radiology has progressed, further means of looking inside a patient's body have been brought into common use.

Apart from x-rays, which are still used extensively, there is now a range of imaging machines including ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) available in most large hospitals around the UK.

With the increasing sophistication of these diagnostic techniques, they offer huge benefits to patients in terms of reducing the need for exploratory operations or other painful, and less reliable, methods of ascertaining the causes of a medical problem and as a precursor to effective treatment.

Diagnostic techniques in cancer treatment

Corresponding with the increased technology of the machines involved, the job of a radiologist has become more challenging with the duty of interpreting the images and making a diagnosis to refer to a surgical colleague or other doctor.

Many patients expect radiology to be 100 per cent accurate but where there is human judgement and skill involved this can, occasionally, give rise to error and the possibility of a medical negligence case if a misdiagnosis or failure of a reporting system is involved.

This can be particularly true in oncology cases where a delay in identifying a potentially-cancerous mass may lead to the spread of the disease. Administrative mistakes, such as failure to recall or record patients, can also cause unnecessary suffering.

Radiologists have a responsibility to communicate clearly and efficiently to medical colleagues and the patient, both in writing and in person, should any abnormality be found through the scans and urge speed of action if there is any likelihood of the condition being life-threatening.

With the serious consequences of a misdiagnosis from imaging, it is important for patients and their families to be aware of the possibility of problems arising.

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