To err is human, but in the medical field, errors can have devastating consequences for patients and providers. Legal action against physicians for alleged malpractice is an increasing problem in all specialties. An article published in Radiology Today in 2013 cited a study by the National Practitioner Data Bank that looked into 25 years of malpractice payments and found that diagnostic errors are the leading cause of death from medical errors. The researchers estimated that 40,000 to 80,000 Americans die from incorrect diagnoses each year. In diagnostic radiology, errors are caused due to various factors linked to human mistakes, technical factors, and system slipups. Getting an online medical second opinion on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) results and other imaging studies may be recommended for the best diagnostic results and treatment recommendations.

Why Getting a Second Opinion on MRI Results Matters

Benefits of a Second Opinion on an Orthopedic Imaging Study

  • Confirm accuracy of diagnosis and treatment recommendations
  • Reduce the risk of misdiagnosis by allowing another specialist or a team to evaluate the radiology repot and treatment recommendations
  • If symptoms persist, a second opinion can provide clarity
  • Resolve conflicting diagnosis
  • Can help detect minor or major errors from the initial diagnosis
  • Allows physicians to determine the right plan of action for the patient
  • Puts the patient’s mind at ease

MRI scans in Orthopedics

An MRI plays a crucial role in orthopedics. It is used to assess bones, joints, and soft tissues for injuries or the presence of structural abnormalities or certain other conditions, such as tumors, inflammatory disease, disc herniation or degeneration, and to monitor joint degeneration due to arthritis. Applications include assessment of shoulder conditions (such as a rotator cuff tear), lumbar spine conditions, wrist injuries, knee conditions (such as a torn meniscus), foot and ankle injuries, and stress fractures. An MRI may also be used to evaluate the results of orthopedic procedures in follow up. Correct interpretation of an MRI can lead to earlier medical and physical therapy interventions and delay progression of the disorder.

However, an MRI interpretation is a very complex process and errors can occur due to human- and system-related reasons. Carestream reported on a 2016 study which listed the most common causes of diagnostic errors as:

  • Not consulting prior studies or reports
  • Limitations in imaging technique (inappropriate or incomplete protocols)
  • Inaccurate or incomplete history
  • Location of the lesion outside of the region of interest
  • Failure to search systematically beyond the first abnormality discovered
  • Failure to recognize a normal variant

Scans can be easily misread and lead to misdiagnoses, resulting in unnecessary or even harmful treatments. The musculoskeletal patient could face a risk if an asymptomatic pathology is mistaken for a source of symptoms and then treated with an invasive procedure. The risk may be greater when the actual pathology is a serious threat to the patient and the clinician mistakenly focuses on the asymptomatic pathology. Getting an orthopedic second opinion for MRI results and treatment recommendations can help prevent these problems. It can confirm the diagnosis before a potential inappropriate treatment and provide clarity when symptoms persist.

Getting a second opinion in sports medicine is now quite common among athletes with an orthopedic injury. Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez suffered ligament damage to his right elbow and Tommy John surgery had been recommended. The team announced that Perez will seek a second opinion based on the initial MRI exam, according to the team. Brewers’ reliever Corey Knebel is also getting a second opinion on his ailing elbow, according to a KPVI report.

Online Medical Second Opinion – An Easy and Convenient Option

A few years ago, getting a second opinion meant sending the patient’s medical records to another facility. The process could be time consuming as it would depend on the distance between the facilities and the availability of staff at the facility providing the second opinion service.

Today, online Orthopedic-specific telemedicine portals, such as, allow patients to get a second opinion on any type of imaging study/treatment recommendations. Patients can upload the study report to the portal and it is routed to an experienced musculoskeletal provider/Orthopedic Surgeon who interprets it, typically within a few hours. Patients can get answers fast which can help guide treatment moving forward. In addition to patients, referring physicians and other Radiologists can use this service. In summary, an MRI exam is usually ordered to check for a serious medical problem. Getting an MRI second opinion of the results and treatment recommendations will help ensure an accurate diagnosis and optimal treatment.