4-15. FAILURE TO X-RAY
The primary physician is usually named in cases involving a delay or failure to
perform radiographic studies. A retired Army colonel and his wife received an out-of-
court settlement of 5,000 for injury suffered because physicians at Walter Reed
Army Medical Center and DeWitt Army Hospital refused to perform a biopsy on the
woman's growing breast lump between 1984 and 1986. When a biopsy was finally
conducted at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 1986, the woman was found to have
cancer. In 1988, she had to undergo a mastectomy.
KIMBALL vs SCORS (N.Y., 1977): FAILURE TO X-RAY
A patient went to his physician with complaints of blood in his stool, leg weakness,
and digestive discomfort. He was referred to a radiologist. A liquid barium, upper
gastrointestinal procedure was performed, but not a chest radiograph.
Subsequently, the patient died from bronchogenic carcinoma of the lung. The court
found that (allure of the radiologist to obtain a chest x-ray in a timely manner had
deprived the deceased a substantial possibility of survival.
GRADEL vs INOUYE (Pa., 1980): FAILURE TO X-RAY
This case involved a 5-year-old boy with a fractured arm. Upon removal of the cast,
the boy's mother noticed a lump at the site of the fracture, which kept steadily
increasing in size. Without x-raying the arm again, the physician attributed the lump
to callus formation. However later, amputation at the elbow was necessary to treat
the lump, which proved to be cancerous. Had the physician ordered an x-ray when
the lump was first discovered, the cancer would have been diagnosed earlier and the
boy's arm could have been saved.
In the early 1900's, when radiology was a relatively new science, a number of the
lawsuits involved bums and tissue damage suffered during diagnostic x-ray studies,
which resulted from long and repeated exposures and an imprecise technology. Later,
x-ray was used to treat various conditions, such as: acne, psoriasis, and lymph node
inflammation or adenitis. Today, radiation therapy usually means cancer treatment.
Cases involving the prescription of an excessive dosage are the radiologist's
responsibility. Injuries resulting from the radiographer's failure to follow the dosage plan
are the result of the radiographer's error.