Radiologists Settle for $900,000 in Missed Lung Cancer Lawsuit

2004 Medical Malpractice Settlement Report

Radiologists failed to verbally communicate abnormal findings to clinicians. Clinicians failed to follow up on written radiology report in lung cancer case.

This case involves a now 40-year-old woman with advanced stage lung cancer. The defendants are two radiologists, an anesthesiologist and a surgeon. The claim is that the radiologists identified a suspicious lung nodule in various preoperative imaging studies in 1999, but failed to properly communicate the findings to the surgeon and anesthesiologist. However, the radiologists dictated their findings into a formal report. Without benefit of direct communication, the surgeon and anesthesiologist failed to follow up the abnormality noted in the body of the dictated report, resulting in a nearly three year delay in diagnosis and treatment.

See more recent case of missed cancer:
Doctor Misses Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis: $11.32 Million Verdict

Missed cancer xray photoA missed cancer case is often referred to as a "failure to diagnosis" or a "delay in diagnosis" of cancer, and is one of the most common reasons patients file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

See more: Delay in diagosis / missed cancer verdicts and settlements.

On 3/13/99, the plaintiff lost — and thought she swallowed — an acrylic cap from a tooth. She presented to the emergency room with difficulty breathing. A chest x-ray was reportedly negative for any foreign body. Approximately one month later, in April 1999, she presented to the defendant surgeon with persistent respiratory difficulty. He ordered another chest x-ray and ultimately, a chest CT scan. The defendant radiologists interpreted and reported both studies.

Specifically, the radiologists reported two abnormal findings on the 4/12/99 CT scan: a 6 mm filling defect in the left upper lobe bronchus consistent with an inhaled foreign body—the acrylic cap; and a 1.6 mm nodule at the right apex of uncertain significance for which they recommended a follow up study in 3 months. The typed report is within the patient’s hospital record.

On 4/14/99, the defendant surgeon performed a bronchoscopy on the plaintiff and retrieved the aspirated cap from her lung. The defendant anesthesiologist noted the CT findings pertinent to the left lung but did not note the reported right lung nodule.

Nearly three years later, on 2/14/02, the plaintiff complained of right-sided shoulder and scapular pain and underwent another chest x-ray. This one revealed a right apical mass with paratracheal and hilar adenopathy. A CT scan confirmed the presence of a 3.2 x 5.0 cm mass in the right upper lobe, as well as massive lymphadenopathy. According to the plaintiff’s expert witnesses, this was the same mass identified on the CT scan done in April 1999. A lymph node biopsy was done on 3/6/02 and revealed non-small cell lung cancer, ultimately staged as a IIIA pancoast tumor.

Since diagnosis, the plaintiff has undergone chemotherapy, concomitant radiation therapy and surgical resection of a portion of the right lung. Unfortunately, she has also suffered a recurrence of her cancer and her prognosis is poor.

The plaintiff’s claim is that the defendant radiologists rendered substandard care when each failed to directly, i.e. verbally, communicate the presence of a right sided lung lesion to the surgeon, whose attention otherwise was on the left sided abnormality. Further, the plaintiff claims that the defendant surgeon was negligent when he failed to react to the written report of the right sided lung lesion. And, finally, the plaintiff claims that the anesthesiologist rendered substandard care when after noting the left sided findings in the radiology report he failed to directly communicate the abnormal right sided findings to the surgeon.

The plaintiff’s position is that had the defendants rendered care in compliance with the accepted standard of care in 1999, the right sided lung cancer would have been diagnosed before advancing to a Stage IIIA. Had that been achieved, then more likely than not, the plaintiff would now be cured. Given the bleak outlook for survival, the plaintiff accepted the $900,000.00 settlement at this time, rather than continue the litigation process, so that she can stop working and make the most of the time she has left.

The defendants maintain that nothing done or omitted by them contributed in any way to the plaintiff’s poor prognosis. The radiology defendants specifically contend that they did, in fact, verbally notify the defendant surgeon’s office of the abnormal findings in the plaintiff’s right lung.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys represented the plaintiff in this lung cancer malpractice claim.

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