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Radiology errors: are we learning from our mistakes?

Clinical Radiology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.crad.2009.06.002
  • Education
  • Medicine


Aim To question practising radiologists and radiology trainees at a large international meeting in an attempt to survey individuals about error reporting. Materials and methods Radiologists attending the 2007 Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting were approached to fill in a written questionnaire. Participants were questioned as to their grade, country in which they practised, and subspecialty interest. They were asked whether they kept a personal log of their errors (with an error defined as “a mistake that has management implications for the patient”), how many errors they had made in the preceding 12 months, and the types of errors that had occurred. They were also asked whether their local department held regular discrepancy/errors meetings, how many they had attended in the preceding 12 months, and the perceived atmosphere at these meetings (on a qualitative scale). Results A total of 301 radiologists with a wide range of specialty interests from 32 countries agreed to take part. One hundred and sixty-six of 301 (55%) of responders were consultant/attending grade. One hundred and thirty-five of 301 (45%) were residents/fellows. Fifty-nine of 301 (20%) of responders kept a personal record of their errors. The number of errors made per person per year ranged from none (2%) to 16 or more (7%). The majority (91%) reported making between one and 15 errors/year. Overcalls (40%), under-calls (25%), and interpretation error (15%) were the predominant error types. One hundred and seventy-eight of 301 (59%) of participants stated that their department held regular errors meeting. One hundred and twenty-seven of 301 (42%) had attended three or more meetings in the preceding year. The majority (55%) who had attended errors meetings described the atmosphere as “educational.” Only a small minority (2%) described the atmosphere as “poor” meaning non-educational and/or blameful. Conclusion Despite the undeniable importance of learning from errors, many radiologists and institutions do not engage in such practice. Radiologists and radiology departments must continue to improve the process of recording and addressing errors.

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