When you go for an MRI at a local Chicago hospital you expect that the technician interpreting it will give a clear and correct diagnosis. However, oftentimes the MRI and other scans that are the basis for the medical treatment and care prescribed by our doctors are simply not reliable because of radiology errors.
In one of our cases, a treating radiologist viewing an MRI scan noted certain changes in her lumbar spine. But later, this same patient was re-examined by another orthopedic surgeon who ordered new scans. And this time around the radiology report found none of those subtle changes. The meaning of all of that is that the treatment plan laid out by our client’s first treating physician relied on scans that were flawed. The images seen were different on the second set of MRI scans.
Did the radiologist make a mistake? Not really, according the second doctor. But the scans themselves can be different. What’s sobering to know is that some MRI scans and other scans, X-Ray and CT can appear different because of the quality of the images. Even academic radiologists say that different scans of the same part of the body can reveal very different findings.
There are other problems associated with this. Some radiologists in smaller community hospitals are assigned to read almost every kind of scans, from chest x-rays to MRIs of the foot. Whereas a radiologist at a large teaching hospital may be a specialist who only reads one sort of scan, such as head CTs. By focusing on only one type of image they gain more experienced at recognizing subtle changes and developments for that specific scan.
Another issue is the fact that doctors relying on the radiologist’s report of what was on the scan without knowing anything about the quality of the scan that was analyzed. Because the technology rapidly changes, a machine from a few years ago could generate a much lower quality of scan than a brand new machine. For example, some models of MRI machines produce lower quality scans than others and this can drastically affect the ability to use it to make a correct diagnosis.
Also, if the scan being reviewed is not the original image, but a copy, then it can be hazier and harder to read. For example, in one of our Illinois medical malpractice cases, the radiologist reviewing an X-Ray noted that the scans had been copied so that the quality was not as good as the original. Now we regularly insist that scans be digitally produced so that the quality is very much like the original scans.
Also, there is the human factor- a radiology tech with more training and experience could be better at setting up and taking the scan. The method used to physically take the scan also influences its quality.
The bottom line is that these scans are far from full-proof. So even if the scans used to diagnose you showed no problem, if your alarming symptoms persist then get a second set of scans and a second opinion.
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