Medical scans from thousands of patients in the Niagara region are being reviewed after a radiologist made a mistake interpreting a diagnostic test.
According to media reports, the Niagara Health System, a group of six hospital sites, will be checking 4,000 MRIs, CT scans and mammograms originally interpreted by one radiologist from May, 2014, to May, 2015.
In a statement posted to its website Monday, the hospital said the review is being done for quality-improvement purposes. The hospital said it will inform patients only if the review discovers "any unreported or unusual findings." The process is estimated to take three months.
But in an interview with local media outlets, Niagara Health System president Suzanne Johnston said the review was triggered by a patient's complaint in April, which eventually revealed an error with the radiologist's interpretation of a scan. Dr. Johnston would not reveal the type of scan or the name of the radiologist in question. She said the hospital has been conducting a review for several weeks and is enlisting the help of outside medical experts.
Interpreting diagnostic scans is difficult and complex. Other issues, such as inadequate staffing levels and a patchwork of quality-assurance mechanisms, can pose additional challenges. For several years, there have been growing calls from members of the medical community to create a national quality-control system for diagnostic tests. For instance, some suggest creating a mandatory peer-review system, wherein a radiologist's or pathologist's work is always reviewed by a second expert.
There have been numerous high-profile examples of diagnostic scan errors across Canada in recent years. In 2013, Trillium Health Partners launched a review of 3,500 radiology scans after an error led to a patient being misdiagnosed. The hospital waited for months before telling Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and the public.
In response to the news, former Health Minister Deb Matthews said the province would look at creating a province-wide quality-assurance system to help prevent similar situations from happening. The province said it will roll out a physician peer-review program.