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Discrepancies and mistakes: radiology errors

While the vast majority of patients treated in both inpatient and outpatient settings in New Jersey and across the country receive appropriate and timely care, medical treatments are provided by people and people can make mistakes. When discussing medical malpractice, most people think of clinical errors such as misdiagnoses or surgical errors. Another area where a mistake can be made is in radiology.

Radiology is imaging, often in the form of X-rays. In most cases, the image must be reviewed by a certified radiologist, who creates a written report detailing his or her opinion of the image and assigning any diagnosis. While these individuals are trained and experienced professionals, it is not impossible that they read an image incorrectly.

A report from the Ulster Medical Society discusses the difference between an outright error and a discrepancy in a radiology report. In some cases, there may be a specific and obvious right way to read an image. In these cases, reading the image in any other way might be considered to be an error. In other cases, however, there might be several ways to read an image, or the image could be read at varying levels of severity. In these cases, the report notes that a difference of opinion about the image is more aptly called a discrepancy.

In cases where a clear error in radiology impacts a patient's treatment and leads to injury or other damages, liability may be less cumbersome to prove than in cases where the error is deemed more of a discrepancy. Either way, however, if a patient is harmed because of a radiology report, a case for medical malpractice may exist.

Understanding how to investigate medical injuries -- including obtaining and reviewing medical records and deposing medical witnesses -- is one reason that legal assistance in such cases can be so valuable.

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