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3,400 Scans Iffy; Patients Not Told For 4 Months

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British Columbia authorities have been investigating approximately 3,400 CT and ultrasound scans read by two radiologists who, according to a news release by the province’s Ministry of Health Services, “lacked either the appropriate credentials or experience” to analyze such scans.

After two regional health authorities discovered the problem in early October, they waited four months before they began notifying patients early last week. They didn’t even inform the Ministry of Health Services until February 4. The public announcement came on Friday.

David Ostrow, MD, president of one of the regional health authorities, Vancouver Coastal Health, said that during the delay, the scans were being reinterpreted by qualified radiologists. He said the authorities didn’t want to cause anxiety among the public during those reinterpretations.

“If we had notified everyone in October, we would have had people worrying from October until we could finally go through this process,” he said. “As soon as we had answers, we started notifying the doctors and patients.”

The reinterpretations¬† determined that 134 of the patients involved needed further testing, including 30 whose cases warranted “immediate attention,” according to the Vancouver Sun. Authorities admitted that some of the readings may have missed cancers but declined to provide precise numbers about how many people were misdiagnosed.

Authorities were contacting nearly 900 patients who had CT scans or ultrasounds read from April through early October 2010 by a full-time radiologist at Powell River General Hospital. Powell River is about 90 miles northwest of Vancouver.

The same radiologist also had read nearly 2,300 other ultrasounds for pregnant women going back to 2002. All women who had ultrasounds and have since given birth have been notified. Those who are still pregnant are being sent to another hospital for another ultrasound.

The radiologist, whose name was not released, is no longer practicing, authorities said. That leaves Powell River General Hospital without a radiologists; patients are being sent to a hospital in North Vancouver.

Another radiologist on temporary duty last year in other areas of the province read 170 CT scans that were being reviewed. The health authority for that region said he “may not have had sufficient experience to interpret CT scans.” Another 200 that he read in yet another area are being investigated.

The provincial Ministry of Health said responsibility for determining whether a physician is competent to practice in British Columbia lies not with the ministry but rather with the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

A doctor has been appointed to investigate the situation. His first task: review the credentials of all radiologists in the province.

Related seminar: Abdominal & Thoracic CT/MR/US: Optimizing Practice

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One Response to “3,400 Scans Iffy; Patients Not Told For 4 Months”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » 2,723 More Scans Get Rechecked In BC on March 1st, 2011 at 10:02 am

    […] radiology mess in British Columbia has gotten messier since we reported two weeks ago that 3,400 CT and ultrasound scans were being rechecked because two radiologists “lacked […]