When you go into a physician's office complaining of an ailment, you expect that he or she will use his or her training and experience to diagnose your condition correctly. Unfortunately, these expectations are not always met, which can lead to an exacerbation of the medical condition or death in some cases.
The danger that misdiagnoses pose was recently highlighted in a study, published in the medical journal BMJ Open. During this study, researchers reviewed more than 7,150 journal papers from the U.S., Canada, England, Australia and France on medical malpractice claims for primary care doctors. They chose primary care doctors because these doctors are typically the first type of physician a patient sees when he or she has a medical condition.
Having reviewed the claims, researchers discovered that misdiagnoses were the most common cause of medical malpractice claims-responsible for between 26 and 63 percent of the total number of claims. It was also discovered that when a physician fails to correctly diagnose a patient, the results are often tragic. The study found that death was the most common result in cases involving misdiagnoses; between 15 and 48 percent of the victims of misdiagnoses died as a result of the mistake.
Mistakes involving misdiagnoses far eclipsed the second most common cause of medical malpractice claims: drug errors. This type of error was only responsible for 6 to 20 percent of the total number of claims.
Commonly misdiagnosed conditions
Misdiagnoses can happen for any medical condition, but research has revealed that the majority of them occur in five conditions:
· Cardiovascular disease: In many cases, heart disease presents few or seemingly non-serious symptoms such as nausea. In many cases, it can only be correctly diagnosed if very subtle symptoms are noticed. This makes it easy for a physician to miss.
· Pulmonary embolism: Blockages in an artery by fat, blood clots or tumors are the leading cause of preventable hospital deaths. Most occur after surgery. Physicians often fail to screen for them in patients who have a high risk of developing them.
· Heart attacks: Like cardiovascular disease, the symptoms of a heart attack are often subtle and easy to miss. It is important for patients to inform their doctor of all their symptoms, no matter how trivial or minor.
· Cancer: In many cases, tests that would confirm the presence of cancer are not ordered. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer that is misdiagnosed.
· Infection: Viral infections are the most common type of infection that are misdiagnosed. Infections are often missed by a physician's failure to order follow-up tests or consider all of the patient's symptoms.
Consult an attorney
When visiting a physician, it is important for patients to not be shy about asking questions about the diagnosis, so they may be sure about how the diagnosis was reached and what symptoms/evidence it was based upon. If you are not comfortable with your physician's diagnosis, do not be afraid to seek a second opinion.
If you have been harmed because of a misdiagnosis, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can investigate the causes of your injuries and work to hold the responsible party accountable. Contact a JKFM Law attorney today to pursue your legal rights.