A Kaiser Permanente radiologist in Denver misinterpreted 259 breast X-rays over 18 months and failed to detect cancer in at least five women now undergoing treatment, an official said last week.
James Walsh, M.D., 60, a 20-year veteran hired by the HMO in October 1993, was forced to resign in April, said Andrew Wiesenthal, M.D., associate medical director for Kaiser Permanente Medical Group.
The pattern of discrepancies in Walsh's X-ray readings came to light about three months ago during a standard review of the work of all radiologists employed by Kaiser, Colorado's largest group-practice HMO (See related story, p. 34).
There is no way to determine whether the time lag between the mammograms and the accurate diagnoses caused any progression of the cancer in the five women, Wiesenthal said. Kaiser officials said they have contacted all the affected women, who had screening mammograms at the HMO's office between October 1993 and this April.
It's possible that additional cases of breast cancer might be detected in the dozen women yet to undergo follow-up exams, Wiesenthal said. However, he maintained that the problem was discovered through strict standards used to measure the quality of doctors' work.
Walsh couldn't be reached.