ER Doctor Didn't Give Me an MRI...

by Melissa
(Corbin, KY)

I fell and twisted my leg. I heard 3 pops when it happened. It hurt BAD. This occurred at 11:30pm and I don't drive, so I waited until the next morning. By that time my knee had popped back into place but I could barely get up and down, or move my leg in any way.

I tried to get in to see my regular doctor and was told to go to the ER. I asked if I needed my doctor's permission for the hospital to do an MRI and my doctor's nurse said no. She told me the hospital would do that with out my doctor's permission.

I limped in to the ER (they were very empty that day) and the registration nurse took me straight back to a room in a wheel chair. The doctor followed right behind us. As I was trying to get to another chair the check-in nurse told the ER doctor that I had walked in on my own. I had, as bad as it hurt, and I knew it wasn't broken. I just needed to make sure nothing was torn.

The ER doctor sent me for an x-ray and made me turn my knee every which way, left, right and straight. He came back a few minutes later and said the bone was only bruised. This was a week ago. I saw my own doctor 3 days after the ER visit and he scheduled me for an MRI since I can't stand on it or keep it straight. The pain is constant and throbbing.

I'm very upset that the ER doctor didn't order my an MRI. I think since I had walked into the ER on my own and the nurse told the doctor, they thought I was stretching the pain factor and brushed me off. They didn't perform the proper medical tests to diagnose my injury. Can I sue them for medical malpractice?

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ANSWER for "ER Doctor Didn't Give Me an MRI...":

Melissa (Corbin, KY):

You certainly can file a lawsuit against the hospital and the emergency room doctor. Unfortunately if you do your case will probably be dismissed by means of a Summary Judgment Motion filed by the same attorneys.

You have no proof of malpractice. To have the basis of a malpractice suit you must be able to show there was a substantial deviation from normal medical practices and that such deviation resulted in harm. From the facts you present the subsequent MRI didn't disclose any damage to your knee or any other part of your body.

Doctors can have varying opinions about the forms of treatment they require for their patients. Apparently the emergency room doctor didn't feel an MRI was necessary. The doctor ordered a set of x-rays. Either the x-rays indicated some bruising to your bone or the doctor's examination did. Apparently the x-rays and the doctor's examination didn't indicate any other damage.

If you decide to file a lawsuit not only will the attorneys for the doctor and hospital probably file a Motion for Summary Judgment, but they may counter-sue you for filing a frivolous lawsuit. If that occurs and the court agrees you may be subject to having to pay their attorneys' fees, court costs and any possibly a fine.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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Comments for ER Doctor Didn't Give Me an MRI...

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by: Anonymous

As noted before, it is highly inappropriate for an MRI to be ordered. In many hospitals I've worked at, STROKE patients have to wait a day or more for their MRI. A patient with a knee injury in the emergency department has no business further overextending a limited resource, especially at the cost of those truly in an emergency.

I'm sorry you hurt your knee. But its' not the doctors fault. The fact you want to sue is an absolute joke, and I encourage you to try. Sorry, but you represent an overlitigous society that is everything wrong with our current generation.

ER doc should not have ordered an MRI for you...
by: ER doc

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an emergent knee MRI. It would be very inappropriate for an ER provider to order an MRI in this case, and your insurance would probably (and rightfully so) refuse to pay for it.

It is not the "standard of care" to order an MRI in your situation. In fact, it goes against the SOC. Without it being standard of care, you would have no case.

MRI's in the ER usually have to be approved by the radiologist or neurosurgeon, even in our level 1 trauma center. They are ordered for only potentially life threatening situations.

Law Guy
by: Law Guy


While your new comments indicate you suffered a tear, it's important to understand the initial doctor and nurse didn't cause your injury.

Technically you may have a medical malpractice claim against the hospital, but your damages would be relatively limited to your pain and suffering between the time of your initial misdiagnosis and your subsequent diagnosis. What that is worth is probably not worth very much.

Your best bet would be to consult with a personal injury attorney with experience in medical malpractice. If the attorney accepts your case he or she might be able to settle for some amount.

Your damages might include your doctors' bills, out of pocket expenses for medicines, crutches, any lost wages, and pain and suffering. But that amount would be based on your damages from the misdiagnosis, and not the original injury.

If the misdiagnosis resulted in increased doctor's bills of, let's say $1,000.00 dollars, your attorney might be able to settle for $4 - 5 thousand (3-4x the costs). The key is the the amount of increased medical bills the misdiagnosis caused.

From your facts, there doesn't seem to be any evidence of increased doctor's bills resulting from the misdiagnosis. The amount of increased doctor's bills would be the basis of the multiple of 4- 5x you would demand for a settlement.

Hope this helps.

Not medical malpractice...
by: Anonymous

I'm sorry to read you tore your ACL. While this injury may cause a lot of pain and swelling, it is not a medical emergency. There is no significant harm in delaying treatment/surgery or even delaying a diagnosis. Depending on your age, activity level, and subjective stability of your knee, surgery may not even be needed.

Performing an MRI of your knee in the ER would not have changed your treatment. You would still have been placed in a brace, given crutches, and told to follow up with an orthopedic surgeon (on a non-emergent basis) for definitive treatment.

The ER physician is not at all obligated to order an MRI. In actuality, that would be an inappropriate use of hospital resources as this is a very expensive test, your injury was not life/limb threatening, and it would not have changed your treatment one bit.

by: Anonymous

That ER doctor NEVER EVEN TOUCHED ME OR MY LEG! When he walked in behind me he said he was gonna have a tech take me to get an ex-ray. When I got back in the room a nurse came in and gave me a pill... they never asked if I had already taken anything when they checked me in or what meds I was currently on.

Five minutes later the DR came back in (still never touched me or my leg) and said the x-ray showed no breaks or fractures. He said a nurse would be in to give me a brace and crutches, and he instructed me to put ice on it because "it could be bruised". Then he walked out and gave me a prescription for anti-inflammatory medications.

I followed up with my own doctor that Friday and she set me up for a MRI which showed an ACL tear (the ligament on the side of the knee). This happened August 23rd and it's now September 19. I can still hardly move my leg because it locks. What would my chances be in a case like this?

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