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Concerns about medical malpractice suits may lead to more diagnostic mammograms and biopsy recommendations

The majority of community radiologists say that concern about medical malpractice lawsuits affects their interpretation of mammograms. Three out of four indicate that this concern led them to increase the number of their recommendations for diagnostic mammography and/or ultrasound, and one of two increased the number of breast biopsy recommendations. One out of three radiologists actually considered withdrawing from interpreting mammograms because of concerns about medical malpractice suits, according to a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10591).

Joann G. Elmore, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Washington School of Medicine, and colleagues surveyed radiologists who routinely interpret mammograms in Washington, Colorado, and New Hampshire. The survey asked about demographics, practice environment, and attitudes about medical malpractice suits. Of the 124 radiologists who responded to the survey, about half (52.4 percent) reported a prior malpractice claim and 15 percent reported mammography-related claims.

Three out of every four radiologists (76 percent) expressed concern about the impact of medical malpractice suits on mammography practice. More than half (58.5 percent) indicated that their concern moderately to greatly increased their number of recommendations for breast biopsies.

See "Does litigation influence medical practice? The influence of community radiologists' medical malpractice perceptions and experience on screening mammography," by Dr. Elmore, Stephen H. Taplin, M.D., M.P.H., William E. Barlow, Ph.D., and others, in the July 2005 Radiology 236(1), pp. 37-46.

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