Diagnostic errors in pediatric radiology

Pediatr Radiol. 2011 Mar;41(3):327-34. doi: 10.1007/s00247-010-1812-6. Epub 2010 Sep 9.


Background: Little information is known about the frequency, types and causes of diagnostic errors in imaging children.

Objective: Our goals were to describe the patterns and potential etiologies of diagnostic error in our subspecialty.

Materials and methods: We reviewed 265 cases with clinically significant diagnostic errors identified during a 10-year period. Errors were defined as a diagnosis that was delayed, wrong or missed; they were classified as perceptual, cognitive, system-related or unavoidable; and they were evaluated by imaging modality and level of training of the physician involved.

Results: We identified 484 specific errors in the 265 cases reviewed (mean:1.8 errors/case). Most discrepancies involved staff (45.5%). Two hundred fifty-eight individual cognitive errors were identified in 151 cases (mean = 1.7 errors/case). Of these, 83 cases (55%) had additional perceptual or system-related errors. One hundred sixty-five perceptual errors were identified in 165 cases. Of these, 68 cases (41%) also had cognitive or system-related errors. Fifty-four system-related errors were identified in 46 cases (mean = 1.2 errors/case) of which all were multi-factorial. Seven cases were unavoidable.

Conclusion: Our study defines a taxonomy of diagnostic errors in a large academic pediatric radiology practice and suggests that most are multi-factorial in etiology. Further study is needed to define effective strategies for improvement.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Diagnostic Errors*
  • Humans
  • Pediatrics* / standards
  • Radiology / standards*