Ontario patients alerted to possible errors as 3,500 CT scans, mammograms reviewed
Published Thursday, September 12, 2013 8:36AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 12, 2013 11:00PM EDT
Cancer patients are coming forward with stories of misdiagnoses after two hospitals in Toronto and Mississauga announced a review of nearly 3,500 CT scans and mammograms performed by a radiologist with “performance issues.”
Bill Gavel, 66, of Mississauga, Ont., received a letter from Trillium Health Partners Wednesday informing him that a CT scan done on his lungs on March 7 is being reviewed. But Gavel already knows the scan didn’t reveal the lung cancer that another doctor later diagnosed.
Instead, the CT report in March said the chest pain Gavel was experiencing was due to simple inflammation of the airways.
Gavel has since had surgery to remove the cancerous tumour from his lung. But he says he worries about other patients who might learn for the first time that they have cancer after initially being told they were fine.
“In my case, after five months, the cancer could have metastasized in that time,” he told CTV Toronto.
- Patients with questions or concerns are urged to call Trillium's dedicated access line at: 905-848-7534
Trillium Health said it’s re-assessing scans and mammograms performed over the last year at Mississauga Hospital and Queensway Health Centre. The tests were interpreted by Dr. Ivo Slezic, who had trained in Croatia and worked at Trillium hospitals for 33 years.
His work privileges were restricted on April 1, shortly after the problems were discovered. He has since voluntarily stopped working.
Houda Rafle, 28, told CP24 that she had a CT scan at Mississauga Hospital in March and was told everything was fine. But she says she continued to feel ill and recently learned she does have cancer and that it has already spread. She didn’t reveal the type of cancer.
"The tumour was present in March and unfortunately, because it was a six-month duration, it had now spread to my lungs and is now Stage 4," said Rafle.
She said she felt a whole range of emotions when she got the diagnosis.
"It's frustration, disappointment, just devastated. And when I heard this news, the one thing I knew was I have to get through this, I have no option but to recover,” she said.
Scans and mammograms performed at the two hospitals between April 2012 and March 2013 are now being re-read to look for possible errors. All patients and doctors involved in the review will be contacted directly after their tests have been double-checked.
Dr. Brian Yemen, chief of diagnostic imaging at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre and McMaster University Medical Centre, is leading the review, which will involve 16 to 17 radiologists.
He could not give a specific timeline on when the review will be complete, although initial estimates say it could take until mid-October.
"We want to make sure that it's done properly and correctly," he told CTV News Channel. "I want (the patients) to know that we're taking it very seriously."
He said while this news is undoubtedly very upsetting for the affected patients, these types of mistakes are rare.
"This is a very rare occurrence… if in fact we are able to substantiate that significant errors have taken place."
The group representing Ontario's radiologists insists that its members are highly trained, skilled physicians and that the errors are rare.
The Ontario Association of Radiologists said in a statement Thursday that diagnostic radiology is a critical medical service but also complex by its nature.
“Each year in Ontario, radiologists perform millions of diagnostic interpretations. Although very rare, given the sheer number of diagnoses performed, misdiagnosis can happen. Fortunately, the situation at Trillium Health is an isolated one involving a very small number of CT scans and mammograms,” the group said.
Earlier Thursday, Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews said she's confident that the cases "are being reviewed as quickly as possible so that follow-up care can be provided.”
Michelle DiEmanuele, the president and CEO of Trillium Health Partners told CTV Toronto that it was Trillium's chief of radiology who noticed potential problems while conducting reviews of some scans through the hospital's usual quality assurance processes.
After the issues were spotted, she said Trillium launched an internal review to look at 150 scans for potential interpretive errors.
That led to the discovery of one error that had a “significant clinical impact” on one patient. She offered no other details of the error or how it affected the patient.
The findings of the external review will be made public once complete. The review could then be expanded to include scans performed before April 2012, depending on the findings.
DiEmanuele offered an apology in a statement Wednesday evening.
“We apologize for any concern the news of this review may cause and want our patients and community to know it is being done to ensure the highest quality of care at our hospital,” she said.
With files from Angela Mulholland and a report from CTV Toronto’s Austin Delaney