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Analysis of lawsuits related to diagnostic errors from point-of-care ultrasound in internal medicine, paediatrics, family medicine and critical care in the USA
  1. Michael Reaume1,
  2. Mehdi Farishta2,
  3. Joseph A Costello3,
  4. Tyler Gibb4,
  5. Thomas A Melgar5
  1. 1Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan, USA
  2. 2Internal Medicine, Western Michigan University Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
  3. 3Research, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland, USA
  4. 4Department of Medical Ethics-Humanities and Law, Western Michigan University Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
  5. 5Pediatrics, Adolescent and Internal Medicine, Western Michigan University Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Thomas A Melgar, Pediatrics, Adolescent and Internal Medicine, Western Michigan University Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine, Kalamazoo, MI 49008, USA; thomas.melgar{at}med.wmich.edu

Abstract

Purpose The purpose of this study is to identify the extent of diagnostic error lawsuits related to point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) in internal medicine, paediatrics, family medicine and critical care, of which little is known.

Methods We conducted a retrospective review of the Westlaw legal database for indexed state and federal lawsuits involving the diagnostic use of POCUS in internal medicine, paediatrics, family medicine and critical care. Retrieved cases were reviewed independently by three physicians to identify cases relevant to our study objective. A lawyer secondarily reviewed any cases with discrepancies between the three reviewers.

Results Our search criteria returned 131 total cases. Ultrasound was mentioned in relation to the lawsuit claim in 70 of the cases returned. In these cases, the majority were formal ultrasounds performed and reviewed by the radiology department, echocardiography studies performed by cardiologists or obstetrical ultrasounds. There were no cases of internal medicine, paediatrics, family medicine or critical care physicians being subjected to adverse legal action for their diagnostic use of POCUS.

Conclusion Our results suggest that concerns regarding the potential for lawsuits related to POCUS in the fields of internal medicine, paediatrics, family medicine and critical care are not substantiated by indexed state and federal filed lawsuits.

  • ultrasonography
  • internal medicine
  • paediatrics
  • intensive & critical care
  • medical law
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Footnotes

  • Contributors MR planned the study, reviewed all retrieved cases and drafted portions of the manuscript and is responsible for the overall content as guarantor. MF planned the study, drafted the protocol and submitted it for IRB waiver, reviewed all retrieved cases and drafted portions of the manuscript. JAC planned the study, drafted the methods section of the protocol, searched and retrieved the cases from the Westlaw database. TG planned the study, reviewed cases with discrepancies between the physician reviewers and edited the manuscript. TAM conceived of the study, planned the study, reviewed all retrieved cases and edited the manuscript and is responsible for the overall content as guarantor.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The protocol was reviewed and waived by the IRB at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker MD School of Medicine.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement The core data are in the manuscript. We completed the review of each case regardless of where they dropped out in the algorithm. Complete data are available upon request.

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