Q: Describe a signficiant interaction you had with a patient.
When generating diagnostic imaging interpretations, radiologists may use medical nomenclature that can confuse both referring physicians and patients. A simple, quick conversation goes a long way to resolve these misunderstandings.
A patient was referred with the limited provided history of a long-standing soft tissue knee mass. A contrastenhanced MRI of the knee showed an enhancing soft-tissue focus consistent with a hemangioma.
“As a radiologist, opportunities to personally discuss patients’ findings may not always be feasible due to the demands of our clinical duties. However, increasing efforts to discuss findings with patients is very important.” — Daniel Gridley, MD
The patient received a call from her primary care physician informing her that a referral to see an orthopedic oncologist was necessary for the “tumor on her knee.” Shortly thereafter, I received a call from the patient. She was extremely concerned that she had a malignant soft-tissue tumor. She said she had a horrible feeling that the mass was going to take her life. She wondered if she could be cured by sacrificing her leg. I explained that the finding was almost certainly completely benign and that there was no concern about serious long-term consequences. The patient’s panicked tone immediately shifted to relief and joy. She profusely thanked me for my insight.
As a radiologist, opportunities to personally discuss patients’ findings may not always be feasible due to the demands of our clinical duties. However, increasing efforts to discuss findings with patients is very important. These simple interactions can lead to markedly improved understanding of our diagnoses. I feel confident that the patient in this case found the opinion and interaction with their radiologist reassuring and valuable.
Daniel Gridley, MD, Chair of Radiology, Musculoskeletal Imaging Section Head, Maricopa Integrated Health System and District Medical Group, Phoenix, Ariz.