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Erroneous CT scan readings by four British Columbia radiologists in 2010 have so far contributed to at least three deaths and serious continuing harm to the health of several others, the health minister for the Canadian province announced this week.

We’ve written previously about the mess in the province, where an examination of the work of four radiologists eventually involved checking 14,000 scans.

Doug Cochrane, MD, chairman of the British Columbia Patient Safety & Quality Council, led the investigation. He said the independent radiologists who reviewed the scans found serious problems with interpretations only of CT scans, and not of mammograms, ultrasounds, or ordinary X-rays.

Doesn’t sound too reassuring, does it? Especially because Dr. Cochrane said the review team found “discrepancies” in up to 17 percent of the CT scans. However, he said, as quoted by the Vancouver Sun:

No one died as a direct result of an imaging misinterpretation.

Health officials did say three people died indirectly, apparently as a result of delays or errors in treatment. As Dr. Cochrane said, “Delays in treatment occurred. Changes in treatment occurred. Tests were repeated. There were additional interventions and procedures because of these errors.”

At least some of the radiologists apparently were learning how to read CT scans on the job. At least one took a two-week course in CT interpretation.

In some cases, the investigation found, doctors working with the four radiologists observed inept behavior but did not promptly report it. The report said staff at Powell River General Hospital in Powell River were “aware of deficiencies in scanning processes and interpretation” from the time the scanner was commissioned, but feared reprisals if they voiced concern.

Dr. Cochrane and Health Minister Mike de Jong announced procedures designed to prevent future errors through improved oversight and monitoring, including better checking of credentials. Compensation for affected patients and their families is being discussed, de Jong said.

Joan Graham, whose father, John Moser, died of cancer in a British Columbia hospital after an incorrectly interpreted CT scan, called the report “spin doctoring.” She found the lapses in monitoring and reporting infuriating:

To me, this is something that should have been elementary. You wouldn’t check people’s credentials?

None of the four radiologists apparently has been disciplined. Two are no longer working in Canada, and one is working in Ontario, where, according to the Sun, “authorities have been made aware of the concerns.”

One of the four radiologists is still working in British Columbia—but within his area of expertise, according to de Jong.

Heidi Oetter, MD, registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, the provincial licensing and regulatory body for doctors, said that radiology is particularly prone to competency problems because it depends on constantly evolving technology and “whiz-bang machines.”

Yep. Those newfangled gadgets’ll confuse you every time, by cracky. Better we should all stick to X-rays, right?

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2 Responses to “Botched CT Readings Lead To 3 Deaths In BC”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » A Story Of CT, Bureaucracy, ‘Personal Matters’ on October 3rd, 2011 at 10:01 am

    […] report about incorrect CT scan readings in the Canadian province of British Columbia, which we mentioned on Friday. If you don’t have time to devour all 112 pages, here’s a digest of one of the four […]

  2. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Another Canadian Radiology Fiasco Emerges on November 8th, 2011 at 10:06 am

    […] situation follows two other inquiries this year: a review of 14,000 scans in British Columbia (ending with a public report in September that revealed serious problems with the interpretation of […]