A doctor may have recommended an MRI if you reported head, neck, shoulder, knee, or back pain. Healthcare professionals use this scan to diagnose and treat a patient’s problems with parts of their body. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, is an imaging technology that uses a computer, radio waves, and magnetic fields to produce three-dimensional pictures of a patient’s insides, including organs and tissue. The technology is sophisticated enough to detect molecules in the body’s tissue.
Fundamentals of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
More specifically, the MRI’s strong magnets align the body’s protons inside the magnetic field. There, the MRI’s radio waves disrupt the equilibrium of the protons straining against the waves within the magnetic field. The scanner then registers the energy the protons release once the radio waves cease and the protons realign. Health professionals observe the energy release and timing of the protons regrouping to identify tissue.
The MRI is a safe, non-surgical way of examining the internal environment of a human body. While the patient lies flat on a bed and moves into the scanner’s tunnel, the MRI operator controls the MRI imaging, which appears on a computer screen. A radiologist then sees the results, notes any abnormalities in a detailed report, and passes it on to your doctor, who can diagnose conditions of the brain, spinal cord, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and tendons.
Purpose of MRI in the Medical Field
Since an MRI can image the inside of the body, physicians can diagnose diseases and injuries, including spinal cord injuries, bone fractures, soft tissue injury, joint damage, hip replacement, knee replacement, and muscle damage. Aside from structural damage, a physician can also identify diseases and illnesses like infection, stroke, brain aneurysm, brain clots, heart disease, Crohn’s disease, tumors, breast cancer, liver disease, osteomyelitis, and Multiple Sclerosis.
For Some Patients, an MRI is Too Risky
Not everyone can have an MRI. Since powerful magnets operate within the MRI scanner, a patient with metal in them cannot have the scan. Thus, patients with artificial limbs, artificial heart valves, metal clips, bullets, shrapnel, joint replacements, ocular implants, cochlear implants, cardiac defibrillators, and pacemakers cannot have MRIs without risking complications or inaccurate test results. Even tattoos contain metal that can skew the results. Finally, pregnant women should not expose a developing fetus to magnets and radio waves for possible detrimental effects.
Frequent Errors while Using MRI
Performance Errors in the Use of MRI
Even when patients have no metal in the MRI scanner location or their bodies, MRI errors can occur, causing injuries. For example, a scan may not be performed appropriately. It may not be directed at the affected area or not set up correctly. Some patients require an intravenous contrast solution to allow greater visibility and clarity in the results. In addition, a technician may not take the proper sequences to get a complete picture of affected areas.
Improperly Reading MRI Test Results
In addition to test performance errors, radiologists or doctors may not read results properly when they fail to match the results to the patient’s condition or medical history. In other words, the physician’s interpretation of the results may be skewed by biases based on other errors, like incomplete patient histories or physical examinations.
For instance, when a patient’s medical history is incomplete or erroneous, their physician may misread MRI results as inconclusive because the physical examination of the patient or their medical history does not correlate to the test findings. Alternatively, they may erroneously interpret an MRI abnormality as the cause for the patient’s complaints or a lack of abnormality as a reason to dismiss the patient’s complaints as unfounded.
Inaccurate Scan Angles and Views Creating Biases
Moreover, certain scan angles and views create biases that affect diagnoses. So, how the technician took the pictures can influence diagnostics, leading to incorrect diagnoses. For example, a distorted scan may occur when a patient is incorrectly positioned on the table. A wrong position may also lead to patient injury when the scanner’s bore burns the patient’s body part.
Metal Objects in the Scanning Area
And metal objects taken into the MRI scanning area can disrupt the magnetic field, skewing the scan results. Worse yet, the strong magnets attract metal objects and can injure a patient as those objects fly across the room toward the machine. For example, a patient who brings metallic jewelry into the room may be injured when the objects fly and hit the patient’s face with extreme force. Even medical equipment that is not adequately secured can harm patients.
Skewed MRI Results Due to Medical Devices
More problematically, the MRI can cause pacemakers and other lifesaving devices with metal parts to malfunction, harming or killing the patient. Barring injury or death, the medical devices of others can throw off the magnetic field and damage the MRI results. Thus, the patient’s and others’ implants can throw off the results.
Unsterilized or Malfunctioning MRI Equipment
Other problems with the procedure arise when the equipment is unsterilized, causing patients to transmit bacteria and viruses to the following patients undergoing an MRI in the contaminated scanner. Similarly, malfunctioning MRI parts can offset results, and missing protective gear like gloves and coats can lead to injury.
Who can be Liable in an MRI Malpractice Case?
In sum, MRI negligence can cause injuries to patients when technicians fail to competently operate the scan or take precautions, resulting in flawed images and patient harm. Hospitals may also be responsible for poor maintenance of the MRI equipment, or the equipment manufacturer may have sold the hospital a defective product.
In addition, medical staff may fail to transfer the images to a radiologist for review, or the radiologist may miss important details in the scan, forget to transfer their report to the treating physician, or write a deficient report. Finally, the physician may fail to review the radiologist’s report or convey the results to the patient. They may be negligent in omitting to order an MRI in the first place.
Potential Consequences of MRI Malpractice for Patients
Since physicians rely on MRIs, among other facts, to narrow the results to a diagnosis, an inaccurate scan result can lead to a missed or incorrect diagnosis. In some cases, that may lead to a patient fatality. A time-sensitive disease, like cancer, requires an early and accurate diagnosis to begin vital treatment to save a patient’s life. When physicians miss cancer evidence in improperly executed scans, patients may suffer unnecessarily prolonged treatment when the cancer is eventually discovered after it spreads.
Determining Cause for an MRI Malpractice Claim
Negligent medical practice is the core of a medical malpractice action. Medical professionals owe their patients a legal duty to diagnose and treat patients by accepted medical standards. When they misdiagnose a patient or miss a diagnosis due to inexcusable error (other medical professionals of equal education and experience with the same patient would not have acted similarly), causing patients harm, the patient may sue for the resulting damages.
Medical malpractice claims often require medical experts to assist in proving negligence. In MRI cases, several experts may be necessary to prove someone did not do their job correctly and deviated from the acceptable medical standards. They may include MRI technicians, radiologists, or specialists. So, an orthopedist who misreads an MRI report may be negligent, according to an expert orthopedist. And while you may not know how to get experts to help you support your claim, a medical malpractice attorney who practices in the field on a daily basis does.
Get a Free Review of Your MRI Malpractice Case and Find out Your Legal Options in NJ
When it comes to medical malpractice, this is our sole focus at Fronzuto Law Group. Having prepared and prosecuted many medical malpractice cases before, our accomplished lawyers in the field know how to engage the right medical experts for your case, credible ones with the requisite experience to persuade a jury. We also know how to gather and preserve necessary evidence crucial to a successful trial.
Even though your case may settle before a trial date, our team of attorneys always prepares a medical malpractice case with an eye toward the possibility of a trial, covering every possible angle that the defendant or defendants may attack to weaken your case. To ensure you receive the compensation you deserve in an MRI malpractice claim in New Jersey, discuss your case and receive a free consultation from our attorneys. We will provide you with a free case review and determine if you may be eligible to pursue compensation for MRI errors that caused you or someone you love harm. Contact us online or call 973-435-4551 for additional information.