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Could ordering a CT scan constitute medical malpractice?

Although Western medicine may be renowned for its advanced diagnostic imaging technology, a recent article reminds us that testing should always be appropriate to an individual patient’s circumstances. Said another way, too much testing may actually be unsafe.

Computed tomography, or CT scans, have greater sensitivity than traditional X-rays. Consequently, they provide more information about bones, tissues and even blood vessels. 

The risk of radiation-induced malignancies -- perhaps even cancer -- is greater for children. For that reason, a group of medical researchers and professionals recently developed a set of prediction rules to help doctors in weighing the potential benefit of a CT scan for a TBI patient against the potential risks of the radiation exposure.

The researchers assembled a group of 42,412 pediatric patients and gathered CT scan data from 14,969 of them. They then compared their prediction rules against the imaging data to evaluate its accuracy. One of the researchers -- a professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine in Sacramento -- believes the research can easily be applied in the emergency or treatment room. 

What this means for patients is that more is not always better when it comes to tests. A doctor’s duty of care requires disclosure of the risks associated with various technologies or procedures. If a patient was injured by an unnecessary CT scan or by a procedure with undisclosed risks, he or she might have a claim for medical malpractice. Consult with an attorney to see whether you might be able to obtain compensation for any injuries, pain and suffering and other damages caused by a doctor's negligence.

Source: Contemporary pediatrics, "Prediction rules help in evaluating head injuries," Karen Rosenberg, Oct. 14, 2014

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