Radiologist Pierces Patient’s Aorta Causing Fatal Bleed Out


Radiology Expert

This case involves a 38-year-old female patient whose aorta was pierced during a needle-guided CT scan. The patient initially presented to the defendant physician for a PET scan one month prior. After reading the PET scan, the radiologist diagnosed the patient with thymus cancer and ordered a needle-guided CT scan. During the scan, the piercing caused such severe bleeding that the patient untimely died. Following the patient’s death, it was discovered that the PET scan was misread and that the patient was improperly diagnosed with thymus cancer. An expert in diagnostic radiology and a high level of experience with both PET and CT scans was sought to determine whether the defendant physician erred in his evaluation of the PET scan and whether the physician caused undue harm to the patient during the CT scan.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your background in diagnostic radiology.
  • 2. How common is it for a needle guided CT to cause the outcome that occurred in this case?

Expert Witness Response E-025681

Piercing the aorta during a CT guided procedure does not happen easily. I suspect the patient had an initial PET/CT scan, not a PET scan alone, which showed the area of concern. Assuming this was an isolated thymic mass, (ie no other more easily biopsied lesions elsewhere) a CT guided needle biopsy of the mediastinum is an unusual choice. Mediastinoscopy is more typical but there may have been reasons.

Expert Bio:

This expert is board certified in diagnostic radiology and has been practicing for 25+ years. He completed his internship and residency in diagnostic radiology at a west coast university medical center. This expert has published 22 peer-reviewed articles and has lectured nationally on abdominal and pancreatic imaging topics. He formerly served as the chief of radiology at two different hospitals. This expert currently serves as a radiologist at a private practice and lecturer and researcher at an Ivy League university.

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