In 2016, researchers estimated that more than 251,000 patients die in US hospitals annually as a result of preventable errors, ranking medical error as the third most common cause of death in the USA. Many of these preventable deaths are due to diagnostic errors. Multiple large autopsy studies dating from 1957 describe diagnostic error rates across all medical specialties ranging from anywhere between 5% and 47%. Diagnostic errors in medicine are a major source of patient harm, and result in death more often than other medical errors including drug-related errors. In addition to affecting patient morbidity and mortality, diagnostic errors also account for the leading type of paid claims (28.6%) and the highest proportion of total payments (35.2%) in malpractice lawsuits, with a 25-year sum of diagnostic-related payments in the USA totalling $38.8 billion.
A diagnostic error is defined as a medical error related to a missed, incorrect, or delayed diagnosis that is discovered by subsequent findings or tests. As medical imaging is central to the overall diagnostic process, it is logical to conclude that the incidence of diagnostic error (missed, incorrect, and delayed) is attributable, at least in part, to radiology-related errors. For example, in a review of closed malpractice claims in the USA, diagnostic radiology was the sixth more frequent specialty involved, while approximately three out of four malpractice claims against radiologists mention errors in interpretation resulting in missed diagnoses