The idea of misdiagnosing a patient is one of the greatest fears in the mind of any doctor. They might try to do their best to provide their patients with accurate information and treatment, but we still have shortcomings in our healthcare system and diagnostic process that lead to an estimated 100,000 people becoming permanently disabled or dying in the United States alone.
According to research published in the Official Journal of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM) three disease categories – cancers, infections and vascular events- account for approximately 75% of diagnostic error.
Diagnosis errors are typically caused by failure to perform the necessary tests, misinterpreting test results, narrow diagnostic focus or failing to elaborate on possibly relevant symptoms.
Patients who have been misdiagnosed can experience a significant decrease in life quality. Symptoms of their actual illness will worsen and they will need more complex and costly care because they didn’t begin treatment in the early stages, not to mention the side effects from medications prescribed for the wrong condition.
Depending on what factors led to the misdiagnosis, if it’s deemed an unreasonable error they can get in touch with law firms like Cooper Schall & Levy and build a malpractice case so they can get compensation.
Diagnostic Errors Related to Cancers
It’s troubling to know that cancer is among the most misdiagnosed diseases when you consider how much of an impact late diagnosis can have on the patient’s chances of recovery.
The reason for this high rate of diagnostic error is that early symptoms can easily be confused with something more innocuous. For example, if a patient goes to a doctor with a cough – usually their family physicians – and no other relevant symptoms like blood in the sputum, weight loss and a history of smoking, they will be given treatment for a respiratory infection.
Not neglecting steps like taking family medical history into account, referral to specialists, getting a second opinion and testing can make all the difference in avoiding such devastating consequences.
Diseases of the Circulatory System – Vascular Events
In this category we can take heart attacks as an example. Although heart attacks (acute myocardial infarction) often cause patients to visit the emergency room, they are frequently overlooked.
Symptoms like chest pain, difficulty breathing, feeling weak and dizzy, nausea and intense anxiety can be mistaken for a panic attack, heartburn – also causes chest pain or angina – chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating.
Strokes which occur when the blood flow to the brain gets interrupted leading to cells dying and abnormal brain function can likewise be misdiagnosed as migraines or low/high blood sugar.
Pneumonia is an infection misdiagnosed with alarming frequency despite serious consequences associated with delayed treatment.
This typically happens when the examination is rushed, the doctor doesn’t pay enough attention to the patient’s history, x-rays, blood tests are not performed and there’s no follow up.
Less dangerous conditions like bronchitis, sinus infections and influenza all have similar symptoms to pneumonia. Patients that smoke or suffer from asthma can likewise have their symptoms discounted.