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1 question to ask before your CT or MRI scan

Learn what scans have potentially immediate risks

A man–we’ll call him Mitch–walked into an outpatient imaging center to have a CT scan. Within two hours, he was dead.

We represent Mitch’s wife and children in a wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuit.

How is it that an otherwise healthy, middle-aged man who has suspected kidney stones dies from a CT scan?

What are CT and MRI scans?

CT and MRI are two types of diagnostic radiology scans.

Doctors and surgeons order diagnostic radiology scans so they can have images of internal structures and conditions. These images can be useful in making a diagnosis. CT and MRI images can also be useful in guiding a surgeon’s attention in the operating room.

Radiologists are physicians who interpret radiology scans and write reports for the medical record with their findings and impressions. Orthopedic surgeons, general surgeons, and neurosurgeons often review the scans independently as well.

There’s 1 important question to ask before having a CT or MRI: Is it with contrast?

Sometimes CT and MRI scans are ordered with a contrast medium to help the radiologist or surgeon see specific structures or conditions on the images.

A physician order for a scan “with contrast” requires administration of contrast media, often via an IV (intravenous) line. A physician order for a scan “without contrast” means that the diagnostic imaging can be done without administration of contrast media.

Mitch died because he had a sudden and violent reaction to the contrast media he was given for his abdominal CT scan. Some people have this type of allergic or anaphylactic reaction to the iodine -containing contrast media used for CT scans.

Other people have an anaphylactic reaction to the gadolinium found in the MRI contrast media.

It’s important for patients to know whether a CT or MRI will be done under contrast. If so, there are two additional considerations to keep in mind:

• Ask if there needs to be any advance testing for a potential allergy.

• Find out whether the scan will occur at a hospital or a freestanding facility. Hospitals are fully equipped with staff and emergency supplies necessary to respond to an anaphylactic reaction, which can lead to respiratory and cardiac arrest, and death. For me, I would always choose a hospital for a CT o MRI scan with contrast because of the increased patient safety.

Mitch’s life could have been saved if the outpatient imaging facility had been prepared. There was not a radiologist or physician located on-site in the imaging facility’s office. Staff had to run next door to a doctor’s office to find someone for help. The emergency response was delayed and bungled.

Meanwhile, Mitch had a terrible reaction to CT contrast and suffered respiratory arrest and a heart attack. By the time emergency medical services arrived in an ambulance, it was too late to help him. He was declared dead shortly after arriving at a nearby hospital.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor radiology care in Texas, contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.


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