Radiologist Fails to Identify Missing Gallbladder Lawsuit

Davis v. American Radiology

UltrasoundThis radiologist misread medical malpractice claim was filed in Baltimore City against American Radiology after a radiologist mistakenly identified a gallbladder with stones on a woman's ultrasound. It was filed in Health Claims Arbitration on February 28, 2018, and it is the 100th medical malpractice case filed in Maryland this year.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

A woman presented to her primary care physician with complaints of ongoing right flank pain and shortness of breath. The physician referred her to American Radiology for an abdominal ultrasound, which was performed the next day.

The radiologist who interpreted the ultrasound saw multiple gallstones within a well-visualized gallbladder. As a result of the radiologist's findings, the woman went to Maryland Surgeons - who are not a defendant in this case - for a gallbladder stone consult.

The doctor at Maryland Surgeons, relying on the radiologist's ultrasound report, performed a laparoscopic cholecystectomy to remove the woman's gallbladder and stones. During surgery, the doctor was unable to locate the woman's gallbladder, and a postoperative CT scan confirmed that the woman did not have a gallbladder.

Additional Comments
  • Gallbladder agenesis is when a gallbladder fails to develop. This is relatively rare - one out of every 1,000 people - but is more common in women. Most people do fine with gallbladder agenesis No treatment is necessary.

  • The claimant's expert witness in radiology reviewed the woman's abdominal ultrasound and could not find evidence of a gallbladder. This confirms that the radiologist at American Radiology definitely misinterpreted the ultrasound, causing the woman to undergo an unnecessary surgery.

  • Many lawyers will not take lap chole malpractice cases. This is a mistake. We have already tried to lap chole malpractice cases in 2018, winning them both and earning nearly $2 million for our clients. We have also settled two others, one for $1.1 million. These are good cases.

  • But the damages in this case are iffy. Typically, we are not going to take a case unless there is a Roux-en-Y reconstruction. With a Roux-en-Y, a new passageway is typically needed after the common bile duct was cut so bile can drain directly from you're the liver to the small intestines. But, unless the complaint neglected to mention the damages, all you have here is an aborted lap chole claim. It is great that the victim found a lawyer to bring this claim. But there is a fear even a Baltimore City jury will award he less than the cost of bringing the claim.

  • We have seen cases - we are handling one right now - where the surgeon caused a ignificant injury fishing around trying to find a gallbladder that was not there. That does not appear to be the cases here.

  • One thing that seems pretty clear if the facts in the Complaint are correct is that the radiologist missed the gallbladder. But the defense is going to argue that pre-operative radiologic diagnosis of a missing gallbladder is a difficult-to-impossible task. The plaintiff would respond that this might be so but the identifying a gallbladder that is not there is still an error. This debate ties into the question of damages. Given the plaintiff's symptoms, the path might have still be surgery to perform operative ultrasound or operative cholangiography to see what was going on inside this woman. This factors into damages because if she needed surgery anyway, what were the damages from the malpractice?

Jurisdiction
  • Baltimore City
Defendants
  • American Radiology Services, LLC
  • A diagnostic radiologist in Columbia, Maryland
Hospitals Where Patient was Treated
  • Howard County General Hospital
Negligence
  • Incorrectly identifying a gallbladder on ultrasound images when no gallbladder existed.
  • Failing to properly interpret the ultrasound.
Specific Counts Pled
  • As a direct result of the defendants' negligence, the claimant suffered an unnecessary surgery and continued to experience right flank pain.

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