If Doctor Calls With Test Results Does It Mean Bad News?

Doctors may call their patients with results of imaging tests.  A phone call from a doctor about an imaging result may not mean that there is necessarily bad news.  Doctors may call their patients to simply report and discuss the results with them.  This will likely depend on the doctor and the office protocol.

When does a phone call about a test result mean bad news?

Bad news on an imaging test may mean that you have an urgent finding that needs treatment.  This may be something like a blood clot in your legs or lung, a bleed somewhere or an inflamed appendix.  In these cases, the doctor will give you instructions for further care.

Bad news can also be a more chronic finding like a mass somewhere in your body.  In these cases, the doctor may want to also see you in person to discuss the results and to give you directions for further treatment.

Can a phone call be for a normal imaging test?

This will depend on the doctor and office protocol.  Some doctors will call their patients with results which are normal.  This is especially true if the test was ordered urgently to rule out a suspected dangerous condition.

An example would be a CT scan ordered for suspected appendicitis.  The doctor may call the patient with results to let them know that there is no appendicitis.  A phone call can sometimes be about good news.

Can I assume that the news about the test result is good if there is no phone call?

While receiving no phone call is better than getting one about bad news, it is still possible that the test results indicate a problem.  Often this will be a condition which is not urgent but may still be concerning.

There can also be a rare oversight.  The doctor may not have gotten the results of the test.  Perhaps the doctor is busy with other patients or simply forgot to call you.

It is important for the patient to follow up all imaging test results.  If there is any question about the results, a phone call to the doctor is advised.  If you are still sick and not feeling well after an imaging test, you should seek prompt care or call your doctor.

Can a patient call the doctor about imaging test results like an MRI?

Yes. A patient should be able to call their doctor with questions about their imaging results.  Many test results are available on patient portals soon after the test is completed.  If there are any questions, a call to the doctor is appropriate.

What happens if there are urgent findings on the test?

Usually the radiologist who interprets the test will call your doctor and notify them that there is an urgent finding that needs to be addressed.  Your doctor will then call you and give you results and instruct you as far as the next steps.  This may involve going to the emergency room, getting medicine, seeing the doctor in the office or going to a specialist.

If doctor calls with results does it mean bad news? : summary

A phone call from a doctor after an imaging test may not always indicate bad news.  It will often depend on the doctor and office protocol.  Sometimes the doctor will call with bad news or that you have an urgent condition.  But a call may also be to report good news, like a normal scan.    If you have any questions about a test result, it is best to call your doctor.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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