Probe ordered into misinterpreted CT scans

Several B.C. patients may have cancer that went undetected because two radiologists misinterpreted the results of CT scans performed at hospitals in Abbotsford and Powell River last year.

Patient receiving a CT scan for cancer.

Patient receiving a CT scan for cancer.

Several B.C. patients may have cancer that went undetected because two radiologists who were either unqualified or inexperienced misinterpreted the results of CT scans performed at hospitals in Abbotsford and Powell River last year.

Health minister Colin Hansen has ordered an investigation into the cases of misdiagnosis to determine how the radiology physicians in question were allowed to read the scans.

Fraser Health Authority CEO Dr. Nigel Murray said there may be untreated cancers in some of the 10 patients scanned at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre where misinterpreted scans may have contributed to patients receiving incorrect treatment.

“They could include missed cancers,” Murray said. “Approximately three or four could be in that category.”

False positives included one case where the radiologist wrongly identified a pulmonary embolysm in the lungs of an Abbotsford patient, but Murray said the patient’s doctor did not rely entirely on the scan result and treated on the basis of other evidence as well.

“At this time we believe there was no inappropriate treatment given due to false positives.”

The locum radiologist in question performed a total of 170 CT scan interpretations in the eastern Fraser Valley between mid-August and mid-September 2010, most at Abbotsford but about a dozen in Chilliwack, where no discrepancies were found.

“We are still in the process of contacting all the patients individually,” Murray said.

“All of their doctors have been contacted and are taking the appropriate actions.”

One of the 10 patients where scan interpretation problems were flagged has since died, a case Murray said is under investigation but could be due to natural causes.

Fraser Health and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority are notifying a total of 3,400 patients who may have been affected by the work of the two radiologists.

The Powell River radiologist worked there full time from April to October 2010 and was not qualified to read CT scans.

The Abbotsford radiologist worked there temporarily for a month and had been involved in a similar incident of analyzing scans in the Cranbrook area last year.

The locum radiologist at Abbotsford was from out of province, but was professionally credentialed and licensed in B.C., however the health authority was alerted in mid-December to performance concerns about his work, triggering an investigation.

Besides potential cancers, the scans may have involved scans of organs or heart conditions, Vancouver Coastal officials said.

There were a total of 900 cases in Powell River where suspect scan interpretations were re-interpreted by qualified radiologists and then adjudicated again by another group of doctors on Vancouver Island.

A total of 130 of those cases were found to require further checks with patients.

The Powell River radiologist also handled obstetrical ultrasound scans – involving 2,300 pregnant women, or two-thirds of the total cases. In most of those cases the babies have already been born.

Neither of the two radiologists are now practising in B.C., although one may be working in Ontario.

Dr. David Ostrow, CEO of Vancouver Coastal, said he is also worried some cancers went undetected due to the faulty readings at Powell River.

“It absolutely should not have occurred,” he said, adding he was “deeply troubled” that procedures of the health authorities and the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons were ineffective.

“We do have a screening process and that screening process failed,” Ostrow said.

“The ball was dropped in a whole bunch of places.”

Vancouver Coastal officials knew about the suspect scan results since last October but did not notify the health ministry until Feb. 4.

Hansen said he only learned of the Fraser Health incident Thursday (Feb. 10), several weeks after it was uncovered.

The CEOs said they had to perform due diligence before telling Victoria.

“I want to apologize for the stress and any new anxiety this may cause,” Hansen said.

“The incidents raise important questions that need to be answered as quickly as possible so all British Columbians can have confidence in their health care system.”

Hansen has appointed B.C. Patient Safety and Quality Council chair Dr. Doug Cochrane to conduct a two-part investigation of the incidents and report publicly.

Cochrane is charged with ensuring within 30 days that all radiologists now working in B.C. are correctly credentialed.

He’s also been given six months to examine all aspects of the incidents and make recommendations to ensure they are never repeated.

NDP critic Adrian Dix said the fact it took the health authorities months to notify government of the incidents reflects a serious problem of accountability.

“They appeared more concerned, it appears, with insulating the government than ensuring there’s accountability for what goes on,” Dix said. “Whenever that happens, it shakes public trust.”

Fraser Health says all 170 patients affected in the Fraser Valley will receive a registered letter and the 10 patients or families with the most urgent concerns have or will be directly contacted.

Patients with concerns can contact the Fraser Health Patient Care Quality Office at 1-877-880-8823 or email pcqoffice@fraserhealth.ca.

Just Posted

The Great Gordini puts on a magic show for an avid audience during the first Storytime in the Park in this 2019 photo. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)
Storytime in the Park returns this summer

Day 1 registration is on June 30

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Most Read