Look at the images
A patient underwent four ultrasounds during her pregnancy. The sonographer remarked that in three of the studies, there were, “Structural irregularities that require further evaluation.” The physician notified the patient that the ultrasounds were normal. The baby was born with a midline facial defect, cleft palate, club foot, and lower-limb anomalies. The child has limited cognitive and communication skills. During litigation, the physician admitted that he had not reviewed the images from the studies or the sonographer’s handwritten report about the findings.
A $1.9 million settlement was reached prior to trial.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for physicians to rely on the sonographer’s “report” and fail to personally review the images. Although sonographers are responsible for obtaining appropriate images, interpreting ultrasounds is beyond the scope of their professional practice. Interpretation of studies and associated recommendations are the responsibility of the physician. Physicians should review study images and either scan the patient themselves or refer the patient to an imaging specialist for further evaluation and diagnosis.
- AMA AMA. CPT/Professional. In: AMA, ed. Chicago, IL: AMA; 2019:495-497.
- AIUM. AIUM Practice Parameter for Documentation of an Ultrasound Examination. Practice Parameter. Laurel, MD: AIUM; 2014.