Visitor Question

How can 2 radiologists miss diagnosing a broken rib?

Submitted By: Kevin (Rome, GA)

I was playing in the snow with my kids and I slipped on the hill that we were playing on. I landed on my bottom and instantly had pain from my head to neck, side, all the way down my left side. After a couple of hours the pain went away.

Well some 3-4 days later, I started experiencing severe pain in my rib cage area. I dealt with it for about a week until I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I went to immediate care, where they did chest x-rays, in which the doctor said that I had some inflammation around my ribs, gave me 2 shots and sent me home.

I followed up with my doctor and she diagnosed me with flank pain in my side, possibly a pulled muscle. I ended up missing the next 4 days of work. I continued to do my everyday activities to the best of my ability, but I experienced so much pain when I would breathe, cough, sneeze, & do normal movements, I literally started crying.

I went to the ER, where they did an EKG, CT scan, multiple x-rays, blood work, a urine analysis, and gave me morphine because I was obviously in pain. Once again, there was no clear diagnosis, no broken bones and nothing unusual, so the doctor told me nothing for sure, but there was a very small chance I pulled a muscle in between 2 of my ribs.

I follow up with my doctor and she orders more x-rays, but there was still nothing according to the radiologist, but I’m still out of work now for 2+ weeks. My doctor started me on physical therapy for a pulled muscle.

After 2 days into therapy, I notice a LUMP on one of my ribs. I follow up with my doctor a few days later and she says that the lump was formed from my rib fusing or growing back together, basically healing from a broken rib!

Is there some kind of medical negligence from the 2 or 3 radiologists that missed my broken rib? They totally failed to diagnose it. Can something be done about this? Thank you.

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.

Answer

Dear Kevin,

According to the Mayo Clinic there are four ways to diagnose a fractured rib:

X-ray

X-rays are a good tool to visualize bone. But X-rays often have problems revealing fresh rib fractures, especially if the bone is merely cracked.

CT Scan

CT scans can often uncover rib fractures that X-rays might miss.

MRI

MRI scans can be used to look at the soft tissues and organs around the ribs to determine if there is any damage to these structures. MRIs can also help in the detection of more subtle rib fractures.

Bone Scan

This technique is good for viewing stress fractures, where a bone is cracked after repetitive trauma — such as long bouts of coughing.

Also, you stated you submitted to an EKG. But EKGs are not normally used as a tool to diagnose whether or not a bone fracture occurred. Instead, EKGs test for problems with the electrical activity of your heart.

From the facts you present, it appears the doctors certainly missed your fracture, and as a result of that missed diagnosis, you sustained an unnecessary injury.

Speak with several a personal injury attorneys who specialize in medical malpractice claims. Most reputable attorneys won’t charge for an initial office consultation. Bring along copies of your medical records relating to the rib injury, as well as your medical bills.

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) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: April 7, 2015

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