Introduction: The insurance claims against Italian radiologists over a five-year period (1993-97) were anonymously evaluated, based on pertinent data provided by the Insurance Company of the Italian Society of Medical Radiology.
Material and methods: The database analyzed represents over one third of Italian radiologists. A total number of 171 insurance claims were analyzed and classified by cause as due to: 1) misidiagnosis; 2) alleged malpractice when performing the examination; 3) missed referral to other diagnostic/therapeutic procedures; 4) iatrogenic lesions by ionizing/nonionizing radiations; 5) patient's injury occurring during the examination; 6) lawsuits after the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure (art. 589) in case of patient's death (although not directly related to the radiologist's work).
Results: In the first three-year period, the rate of claims was 25.8 per thousand persons/year. Each Italian radiologist has a 90% risk of being sied by a patient once in his/her professional life (35 years). Alleged malpractice accounted for more than 75% of the claims. Misdiagnosis represented the first and most important claims category (43.9% of total). The most common misdiagnoses were the failure to diagnose lesions affecting bones and joints, chest, abdomen and breast. The second most important claim category (20.5%) was complications, frequently occurring during interventional procedures and contrast media injection. Fewer claims (7.6%) originated from patient's injury occurring in the radiology department during the execution of the examination. Finally, radiologists were frequently sved together with medical (or surgical) doctors in case of patient's death, according to the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure.
Conclusions: Legal claims against radiologists are a relevant phenomenon also in our country and represent an actual risk for radiologists' professional activity.