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Lawsuit Blames Death On Lack Of Radiologists

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A West Virginia man has filed a $2 million wrongful-death lawsuit claiming that his wife died two years ago partly because a hospital lacked radiologists at night and sent CT images to a teleradiologist who misread them.

According to The Northern Virginia Daily newspaper of Strasburg, Virginia, Robert J. Eversole II of Hampshire County, West Virginia, filed the lawsuit against nine health-care entities and six individual doctors.

According to the lawsuit, Paulette Eversole arrived at the emergency department of Winchester Medical Center (WMC) in Winchester, Virginia, at 8:20 p.m. on January 19, 2010, with “excruciating, unremitting epigastric abdominal pain.”

Doctors ordered scans and sent them to Nighthawk Radiology. The suit says:

WMC did not have trained and qualified radiologic health care providers on-site to read or interpret Mrs. Eversole’s CT scans.

Nighthawk radiologist Peter Reuss, MD, “purportedly received the CT scan images at 5:01 a.m. and interpreted the 230 images within a short period of time,” the lawsuit says. It says that Dr. Reuss reported all visceral organs appeared “normal with no acute findings” and that he failed to report that Mrs. Eversole’s superior mesenteric artery had closed and her celiac artery had nearly closed.

The lawsuit says Kyle Young, MD, of Winchester Radiologists, PC, later evaluated the CT scans of Mrs. Eversole’s pelvis and abdomen and evaluated them as “normal.” The lawsuit says that in fact the scans showed “evidence of significant vascular pathology of the mesenteric arteries.”

However, the lawsuit also acknowledges that nothing shown in the CT scans could have explained the patient’s symptoms.

After an endoscopy showed blanching of the mucosa of the stomach, the lawsuit says, a doctor ordered a magnetic resonance angiogram. However, the lawsuit says, the hospital had to delay the MRA because it had “oversedated” Mrs. Eversole despite a warning from her family that certain medications made her unresponsive.

When the MRA was finally performed, the lawsuit says, it showed the superior and inferior mesenteric arteries had closed and the celiac artery had almost closed.

“Upon cutting her open,” the lawsuit says, “there was a foul stench. All of her visceral organs … were black and necrotic.”

The lawsuit contends that negligence caused “critical” delays in Mrs. Eversole’s diagnosis and treatment.

Mrs. Eversole died on January 22, 2010. The lawsuit was filed in late January of this year.

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2 Responses to “Lawsuit Blames Death On Lack Of Radiologists”

  1. Sharada on February 24th, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    A radiologist misses a finding if the examined physician did not give a pertinent history. Most of the time a vague history as ‘abdominal pain’ or one of the quadrant’s pain is the history. If the radiologist had an opportunity to talk to the patient or the physician who examined the patient would have had a better sense of the case. In very early phases the findings will be very subtle. It is the examined physician who knows how the patient is clinically and hence should discuss the case with the radiologist if the report is not consistent with the patient’s clinical situation. In this case, where the patient’s condition would have gotten progressively worse, a follow up CT should have been done.

    3D reconstruction could have been easily obtained from the CT data which was already there. There perhaps was no need for MRA. Certainly the hospital has a system to generate 3D CT images.

    It is most important to look into how many cases the ER physician and the radiologists were expected to handle that night or day. The biggest factor is always too a limited time given to a case due to volume overload – all in the name of production! So, unusual or subtle cases which need a little more time for both clinician and the radiologist will go undiagnosed!

    Moral of the story – let the doctors have a little more time to spend with the patient, technologist and consulting physician to make a proper diagnosis. Haste is a waste!

  2. Wesley on February 25th, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Health Care systems continue the downward spiral, and a major contributing factor is the reliance on current technologies. I am a radiologist with a EE degree, so I am in favor of computer technology, but it has it limitations. The decline, caused by electronic health records including PACS, of interactive face-to-face communication between clinicians and radiologists while together reviewing the images on any given case may have been the culprit here. The clinician explains the patients symptoms and asks the radiologist for any confirmatory findings and this process, although time consuming, frequently leads to extraction of additional critical imaging findings. This interaction requires three components at the same location, the clinician, the radiologist, and all relevant imaging tests. In theory, the consult could be performed using interactive PACS tools but somehow that rarely occurs and the result is not the same. We all miss findings as radiologists, but such misses are much less frequent when we know the clinical findings of the patient.