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Radiologist Wins Suit Over Missed Aneurysm

February 2, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Emergency Radiology, Neuroradiology
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A general radiologist who missed evidence of a fatal brain aneurysm in a CT scan won a malpractice suit filed by the family of the woman who died.

In a three-day trial late last year, the defense attorney successfully argued that, while a specialty radiologist would have detected the aneurysm, a general radiologist should not have been expected to do so.

According to Rebecca Boyle, reporting for Missouri Lawyers Weekly, Beverly White, 58, went to Audrain Medical Center in Mexico, Missouri, on November 22, 2005. She complained of three days’ worth of headaches. The emergency-department physician ordered a head CT scan.

General radiologist George Cyriac, MD, read the scan, noticed a few benign abnormalities, but saw no evidence of bleeding or an aneurysm, according to Dr. Cyriac’s attorney, J. Thaddeus Eckenrode.

White collapsed two days later. A second CT scan showed a ruptured aneurysm in a brain artery. After two more weeks, the woman died. Her son sued Dr. Cyriac for missing the aneurysm. In closing arguments, the family’s lawyer asked the jury to award $600,000.

Medical experts for both sides agreed that the aneurysm caused White’s death and that it had to have been present on November 22. Experts hired by the plaintiff said they could see evidence of the aneurysm right away. But Eckenrode argued that those experts specialized in reading brain scans. Dr. Cyriac, the lawyer said, was a general radiologist, not a specialist, and provided the standard of care expected from a general radiologist.

“In retrospect, it was really easy to find,” Eckenrode said. “But we contacted another general radiologist like our doctor, and we didn’t tell him anything about what was in the films. He reviewed them identically to what our doctor did, and he didn’t see [evidence of the aneurysm].”

The lawyer added:

It was there. There was no question about it. And had it been diagnosed, she would not have died. It became a question of whether Dr. Cyriac met the standard of care applicable to him.

Eckenrode said Dr. Cyriac has been a general radiologist in the Mexico area, about 100 miles northwest of St. Louis, for many years. “Going into this thing, he knew it could go either way,” the lawyer said, “but he felt very confident he had done his best for this patient.”

Related seminar: Emergency Radiology

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