Over 3 years 4000 echocardiograms went unread at NYC’s Harlem Hospital

Nearly 4,000 echocardiograms were never read by a cardiologist until recently, according to a report in the New York Times by Anemona Hartocollis. The tests were performed over the past 3 years at Harlem Hospital Center. After passing an initial review by technicians the tests were stored on a hospital computer and forgotten.

“While the process the doctors followed may have alerted cardiologists to those echocardiograms that were most likely to be abnormal, the failure to read the echocardiograms in a timely manner is inexcusable and may have placed patients at risk,” said Alan Aviles, the hospital’s corporation president, in a statement quoted by the Times. Aviles also told the Times that he had fired the clinical director of the hospital’s department of medicine, Alfred Ashford.

Hartocollis reported that the neglected records were discovered during a routine review. After the discovery, “a team of 15 to 20 doctors from other city hospitals was assembled to begin reviewing the records.” Although the Times initially reported that no abnormalities were discovered upon these reviews, a subsequent story by Hartocollis reported that some of the echocardiograms had indeed “shown signs of abnormal heart function.”

The Times quoted past ACC president Douglas Zipes, who said the incident was “unconscionable and unacceptable and malpractice as far as I’m concerned…. I can’t use more adjectives than that.” Zipes said “I would bet that there are deaths directly attributable to the failure to read these echocardiograms.”

“We have the technicians do the echos, but then they’re read by the doctors,” said Zipes in the Times. “I would not have it any other way.”


  1. […] were not only unread, but unmissed Posted on May 28, 2010 by Larry Husten As we reported a few hours ago, there’s a scandal now underway here in New York City involving 4,000 unread echocardiograms […]

  2. […] that he has found “life-threatening diagnoses” on some of the tests. (See our stories here and here for […]

  3. […] Over 3 years 4000 echocardiograms went unread at NYC’s Harlem Hospital (May 28, 2010) […]

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