Today is World Radiography Day, which takes place every year on 8 November to highlight the importance of diagnostic imaging and the key role this plays in healthcare. This year marks the 122nd anniversary of the discovery of X-radiation by Wilhelm Roentgen.
Performing, interpreting and reporting on radiography requires specialist training. Doctors, known as radiographers or sonographers, must have a sound knowledge of technology, the anatomy of the human body, physiology and pathology.
Diagnostic radiography allows a radiographer to see what is going on in a patient’s body through the use of X-ray, fluoroscopy, MRI, angiography and ultrasound scanning.
X-rays look through bones, cavities and any foreign objects that might have found their way into a patient’s system; fluoroscopy takes a real-time picture of the digestive system; MRI scans build a 2D or 3D map of the tissue in a patient’s body; and an angiography looks into the blood vessels in the body. The ultrasound is probably one of the most commonly known methods of radiography and uses high frequency sound waves to create an image of part of the inside of the body, such as monitoring a developing baby during pregnancy.
Given the crucial role that radiography plays in healthcare, particularly in the diagnosis of injuries and conditions, and that the results will influence the treatment a patient will then receive, it is vital that these tests are performed, interpreted and reported accurately.
Unfortunately, however, this is not always the case. In our work as clinical negligence solicitors, we see cases where injuries and conditions are misdiagnosed or missed altogether because of mistakes in the way in which radiographs are performed or interpreted. This can lead to missed diagnoses and patients receiving inappropriate treatment or suffering prolonged periods of pain before receiving the right treatment. Sometimes patients may not be treated at all.
Arran Macleod, a solicitor in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches LLP, commented: “Prompt, appropriate and accurate scanning, and interpretation of the imaging, is incredibly important in determining the correct course of treatment for a patient. We have acted for patients who have suffered an injury and, after an initial X-ray, have been told they have suffered only a sprain. Only after returning for a follow-up scan, sometimes months later, did they learn that the initial X-ray was wrongly interpreted and they had, in fact, suffered a break or fracture. The correct interpretation of the initial radiography imaging would have led to appropriate treatment from the outset, and these patients would have avoided the extended periods of pain and suffering they experienced before being appropriately treated.
“Radiography is also used in the diagnosis of cancer; recently it has become common in hospitals to use MRI as a means for diagnosing prostate cancer. The failure to appropriately interpret MRI imaging in such circumstances could have potentially devastating consequences for patients. We have acted in cases where patients with prostate cancer were wrongly reassured due to radiography imaging being misinterpreted. Following further investigation and review they were subsequently diagnosed, but the delay in diagnosis had a significant impact on the side-effects they then went on to experience following treatment. In many cases, correct scanning and interpretation of the imaging would avoid situations of delayed diagnosis.
“The ongoing use of technology in the diagnosis of injuries and conditions is very important and we advocate its use. However, these examples demonstrate the importance of accurate radiography. If you or a family member have any concerns regarding the reporting of radiography in your care, please contact a member of our specialist team who may be able to assist.”