Visitor Question

ER Doctor Didn’t Give Me an MRI…

Submitted 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?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Melissa,

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.

Learn more here: ER Malpractice Lawsuits

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


6 thoughts on “ER Doctor Didn’t Give Me an MRI…

  1. Kaylyn says:

    I have an example of a situation that would call for an MRI on an emergency basis:

    Going to the hospital for severe hip and back pain with the symptom of sciatica, pins and needles down back of leg, but also numbness of the insides of thighs and genitalia/butt. Barely able to walk, they had me go to the bathroom & pee. I didn’t have to pee, but you know how power of suggestion works for that so I went to try. I waited & waited until finally I gave up. But when I got up, my leg felt cold but it was actually wet.

    I looked in the cup thing they hang inside the toilet to catch the pee & I had peed. I knew something was wrong but when I told the nurse, she didn’t believe me & refused to alert anyone until I got upset & a little loud. Another woman, possibly a PA came in and told me they will give me some anti inflammatory but will not give me a narcotic. I told her I don’t give a damn about your f*#n narcotics, I need an MRI.

    She said she watched me walk to the bathroom then gave me some measurement of how much pee was in the cup so that proves no criteria for MRI. I argued about what happened when I went to the bathroom. She wouldn’t have any of it. Basically called me a liar. THAT was a big mistake since I had cauda equina syndrome.

    I left that hosp, spent the rest of the night in misery & fear but luckily was taken to another hosp & got the MRI after which I had emergency surgery. I could have ended up without the ability to use the bathroom, walk, or many other life altering consequences. So I know where you’re coming from, but people die and become very disabled when ER providers don’t catch the life threatening stuff. And it’s happening more than ever because the thing they are preoccupied with is making sure no one gets a pain pill. Some of them need a good ass beatin.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This ER doctor did all the right things. It’s not within his standard of care to diagnose a torn ACL. His standard of care is to diagnose and treat emergencies. This is not an emergency. And he satisfied his EMTALA obligation.

    In fact, he gave you the proper treatment with a knee brace and outpatient follow up. Everything in your case went the way it’s supposed to. It saddens me that your reaction is to sue someone.

    The reason to go to the ER is to ensure there’s no fracture, which presents a much more acute issue. He did that. Unfortunately your case demonstrates a lack of understanding of Emergency Care and healthcare logistics in general.

    Your case is representative of why ERs are flooded with nonemergency patients. And your case is a demonstration of frivolous lawsuits driven by a false sense of entitlement.

    Sorry about your knee. But don’t take it out on someone else, who actually provided you with above and beyond emergency care (according to Standard of Care and your description, he didn’t even need to get an X-ray).

    Also, he didn’t tear your ACL. You did. How about taking some personal responsibility? Are you exercising daily? Are you obese? Are you eating healthy?

  3. Anonymous says:

    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.

  4. ER doc says:

    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.

  5. Anonymous says:

    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.

  6. Anonymous says:

    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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