New York City Radiologist Failure to Follow Up Attorneys


Radiologist Referral

When making a diagnosis, a physician needs as much information as possible. This usually begins with the patient sharing symptoms with the doctor. The doctor then draws on both their education and their experience to determine what is ailing the individual. If the doctor is unable to make a diagnosis based on symptoms alone, it is common for the patient to be referred for additional tests. At times, referrals are sent to a radiologist.

Types of Radiology Exams

Radiologists and their technicians perform a variety of different exams, each useful for diagnosing diseases. Common tests performed by a radiologist include:

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
  • X-Ray
  • CT Scan (Computed Tomography)
  • PET Scan (Positron Emission Tomography)

Today, modern imaging technology allows for clear diagnosis of many diseases that were difficult to recognize even twenty years ago. Lung cancer, breast cancer, congenital malformations, and broken bones all show clearly under some of these instruments. A radiologist is a very important link in the chain of diagnosis. Unfortunately, sometimes that link is broken by poor practices.

Radiologist Failure to Follow Up

After an imaging procedure is performed by a technician, a radiologist will read the test, looking for abnormalities or other signs of disease. Dependent upon the findings, the radiologist will contact the prescribing physician and inform the physician of the results. The patient should also be informed of the results as soon as possible, either by the radiologist or the physician. In the case of certain exams, such as mammograms, the radiologist is required to follow up within 30 days. Other exams do not necessarily have the same requirements.

Sometimes, a radiologist fails to follow up. This can occur in one of three ways:

  • Not performing a full reading of the exam
  • Nor informing the physician of the results promptly
  • Not informing the patient of the results promptly

A full reading of the exam is of paramount importance when making a diagnosis. A single MRI can generate thousands of data points for a radiologist to process, but processing each one can be the difference between lifesaving treatment and death. A person referred for an imaging exam has the reasonable expectation that corners will not be cut, and that the radiologist will take whatever time is necessary to fully evaluate results. Even when the exam is properly read, the radiologist must convey those results promptly and accurately to the doctor who ordered the test.

Role and Responsibility of the Radiologist

Though some physicians are capable of following up and reading a CT scan or a PET scan themselves, a radiologist has significantly more experience interpreting these images than all but the most experienced doctors. The radiologist must take the time to explain the results to the prescribing physician, indicating which criteria were applied and how. The radiologist also must ensure to provide complete information rather than limiting the presentation to what it is believed to be important, so that the doctor has all the facts of the case.

What is and what is not considered “prompt” can change based upon the situation. If the patient has been referred for an emergency diagnostic test, “prompt” means as soon as possible. Waiting even an extra hour can make all the difference in the world for a patient in an emergent situation. The radiologist must be able to recognize when a swift reading is necessary. Other times, the radiologist may take hours, or even days, to work through a reasonable backlog.

It is well-recognized now within medical literature that the patient has a right to individual test results, and either the doctor or the radiologist should follow up directly with the patient. Though simplifying the results is a necessary evil, as few patients have the medical training necessary to interpret the full range of readings, the radiologist should always strive to educate the patient as best they can regarding the meaning of the results. Questions should be answered thoroughly. Only an informed patient can give or withhold informed consent when proceeding with a treatment.

A prompt and proper diagnosis gives the patient the best chance at a good outcome. Dependent upon the disease, an unnecessary delay of even a few hours can be the difference between life and death, or between an excellent prognosis and significant disability. Radiologists are depended upon by physicians in order for doctors to be able to make those prompt and proper diagnoses. Our attorneys have experience recognizing radiology error and whether or not you have a medical malpractice case.

If you or someone you love has suffered due to a radiologist’s failure to properly read or follow up on an exam, the New York City medical malpractice lawyers at Finz & Finz, P.C., can help you evaluate your case to determine how to proceed. Contact Finz & Finz, P.C., now, toll-free, at (855) TOP FIRM, or fill out the Free Failure to Follow Up Evaluation Form to get the legal help you need to make your case.