Failure to follow up ultrasound leads to advanced cancer
<court>Dade County (Fla) Circuit Court</court>
When a 56-year-old woman presented to her internist with pelvic pain, she was referred to a gynecologist, who performed an ultrasound. The results were inconclusive. A second ultrasound was performed, but the gynecologist never contacted the patient with the findings. The internist, however, did receive the results of the second ultrasound, which revealed abnormal areas in the woman’s pelvis consistent with ovarian cancer.
No follow-up studies were performed and the woman continued to see the internist for the next 3 years. She then switched to new physicians, who diagnosed stage III adenocarcinoma ovarian cancer.
In suing, the woman claimed that the internist never told her about the questionable ultrasound results. Because of the delay in diagnosis and treatment, she argued, the cancer spread to her appendix, large intestine, uterus, and abdominal cavity.
The internist countered that not only did he discuss the ultrasound results with the patient, he also advised her to return to the gynecologist because her problem was a gynecologic issue.
- The jury returned a verdict for the defendant internist. The plaintiff reached a confidential pretrial settlement with 2 gynecologists and a radiologist.
The cases presented here were compiled by Lewis L. Laska, editor of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts. While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.