One month after a local radiology center lost its mammography license, Mary Nettleton said she learned her lesson.
Nettleton, who had two mammograms and an ultrasound taken at Belleville Imaging, was startled to receive a letter in early November that said an accrediting agency found that the center did not meet state quality standards.
The American College of Radiology found that 18 of 30 images “did not meet the ACR’s clinical image evaluation criteria,” and that reviewers disagreed “with nine out of the 30 interpretations.” The problems stemmed from how the images were taken and read.
“It was definitely an alarm,” Nettleton said of the letter.
Patients who had gotten a mammogram at a different facility since their most recent one at Belleville Imaging did not need to schedule a new exam, the letter said. But for those who hadn’t, it recommended contacting their doctor for advice.
Nettleton got in touch with her practitioner, explained the situation, and a nurse from the office called back within a day or so with the recommendation to get a new mammogram. It took Nettleton about a week and a half to get an appointment, but her yearly examination was due anyway, and she had to work the appointment around a vacation she had already planned, so she decided to wait.
“We were very busy after the initial broadcast on the television,” said Pam Holbrook, the director of Memorial Hospital’s radiology center, after Belleville Imaging received attention from local TV news networks.
Concerned about their health but faced with having to wait for an immediate exam, patients who called the hospital had a few choices, Holbrook said. One was to wait for their next annual mammogram; the second was to get a mammogram elsewhere; and the third was to wait for a slot at Memorial. After an initial rush for new appointments, the wait time dropped to less than a week.
In addition to fielding calls for appointments, Memorial Hospital also worked with Belleville Imaging to obtain the images that had been taken during the two-year period ACR reviewed, from May 13, 2014, to Aug. 31, 2016.
“We did it as a service to the community,” Holbrook said.
Nettleton said she wasn’t certain whether the hospital reviewed the old images, but it may not have mattered, as those taken in 2015 may not have been transferred to Memorial due to a “catastrophic failure of the digital storage and backup system,” according to the letter from Belleville Imaging.
Nettleton saw the outcome of the exam.
“Thank God, my results were normal, and no concerns were noted,” she said.
After being featured in a previous story in the BND about Belleville Imaging, Nettleton was approached by friends, family, neighbors and even co-workers about what had happened.
She said she recommended they research their medical providers. She normally reads up on doctors and hospitals for larger procedures, but she hadn’t done so before her mammogram at Belleville Imaging.
“That was a lesson learned,” she said.
However, according to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, which regulates radiology centers, Belleville Imaging had never had an image review before.
In addition, David Horace, the manager of Belleville Imaging, told the BND in November that there are 19 details in a mammography image and that, even if an image doesn’t have all of them, the image could still be read and contribute to a diagnosis.
“You can have the best image in the world, and if the radiologist gets distracted, then yeah, there could be an error,” he said.
Horace did not return calls for comment for this story.
“I hope it was a fluke circumstance,” Nettleton said about Belleville Imaging.
Licenses, censures and other information on a variety of professions from acupuncture practitioners to veterinarians can be found online at the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation’s website at www.idfpr.com.
Nettleton said doing your homework isn’t something people necessarily think about when they seek medical services. But she did research Memorial Hospital’s record on mammograms before her appointment.