A Norwegian university hospital took two weeks to diagnose an ankle fracture. The radiologist could not detect a violation, so the patient got no proper treatment. After two weeks of unbearable pain, the ankle fracture was discovered.
Natalia Anita Sørensen enjoyed an evening with some friends in the Norwegian port Stavanger. Around 22 pm she made her way home. On the stairs at the market, she stumbled with their high-heeled shoes. She fell on the pavement and twisted her right foot. "It was terribly painful to walk afterwards, but I managed to limp the short distance home," said the blonde woman.
During the night the pain increased and at the next morning she went to her family doctor. He put a loose bandage on her swollen ankle, gave her crutches and referred her to radiology at the University Hospital of Stavanger. The 29-year-old woman patient still has the document from there on which the radiologist stated that he could not see any bone injury. He supposed a sprain of the ankle.
Natalia Anita Sørensen went home. Fourteen terrible days followed and the pain in the foot did not decrease. One Sunday she called the university hospital and asked for a re-examination. But she was informed that she will be the last in the queue of the emergency room, as even X-rays of her foot were made which showed nothing unusual. The next day the patient contacted her family doctor and asked for a referral to the radiology of the university hospital. She had a little understanding that she could not go to the emergency room directly and had to wait for an appointment during the consultation hours of the radiology department.
But before she had the appointment, a doctor of the radiology called her by phone and wanted to know how she is. She began to cry. He said: "How fast can you get here? You have an ankle fracture." The doctor regretted that the injury was not seen on her X-ray immediately. Then the 29-year-old woman got a cast for her leg in the clinic that she had to wear for more than five weeks.
"It is terrible that no one would listen to me when the pain did not decrease and I asked for a re-examination. I felt rejected by the family doctor and also by the clinic. Besides, I've addressed to the radiology department of University Hospital to find out the name of the doctor who made the mistake, but I got no answer, "says Natalia Anita Sørensen.
Dr. Rasmus Svihus, head of the radiology department at the University Hospital, does not know Natalia Anita Sørensen's case, but he finds it very regrettable that her fracture was not discovered immediately. "However, this also shows that our four-eye control works. Most of the X-rays we take are reviewed by two people," explains Svihus. Once a patient has been X-rayed, the doctor on duty sees first the images. If the capacity of the department is less than otherwise, it may take two weeks until a colleague makes the second review. "This is later than desirable," says Svihus.
An ankle fracture may be visible on the X-ray photo as just a little roughness of the bone surface. "Unfortunately, we will always miss something," says Svihus. "As far as I know, the error is four percent of the assessments in radiology departments around the world."