Medical malpractice worries provoke more breast biopsies

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According to a study in the July issue of Radiology a large amount of unneeded diagnostic and breast images are performed due to concerns by radiologists over medical malpractice worries.

"Radiologists who interpret mammograms in the United States have higher recall and false-positive rates, possibly due to heightened concern about medical malpractice," said the study's lead author, Joann G. Elmore, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, and section head of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

To investigate the matter, Dr. Elmore and colleagues performed a study of radiologists who frequently interpret mammograms. The study focused on radiologists that work in Washington, Colorodo, and New Hampshire.
   
Just over 76.4 percent of the radiologists said they were indeed worried about medical malpractice claims and their impact on mammography practice. As many as 58.5 percent admitted that their concerns either moderately or considerably boosted the number of breast biopsies they recommended, with 72.4 percent stating that the concerns raised recommendations for diagnostic mammography or ultrasound, according to the study.
   
These rates are higher in the U.S. than they are in any other country.

About half (52.4 percent) of the radiologists interviewed for Dr. Elmore's study indicated they had at least one prior malpractice claim.

The study was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Department of Health and Human Services.