Laboratory testing is a vital link in the diagnosis of a patient's condition. Initially a specimen or image is taken at the doctor's office or laboratory, and then sent out for analysis. Whether the item to be analyzed is a tissue biopsy, blood, urine, mammogram, pap smear, CT, MRI, x-ray or involves another diagnostic test, it must be properly examined, handled and interpreted by a number of trained people to render an accurate analysis. Unfortunately, it is estimated that more than one million radiology and pathology mistakes occur each year, resulting in the misdiagnosis or non-diagnosis of serious illnesses, conditions, and cancers.
Some of the common laboratory mistakes include:
- Errors in patient identification (mixed up samples or images)
- Lost/mishandled samples or images
- Misinterpretation of test results
- Mislabeled specimens
- Incorrectly taken images
- Incorrectly drawn specimens
Depending on whether the lab mistake is ultimately discovered, severe or fatal consequences may result. In those circumstances where it is believed that a lab error has occurred, an immediate investigation should be undertaken.