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West Des Moines, Iowa Personal Injury Blog

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Four diseases doctors commonly misdiagnose

Everyone in Central Iowa and across the nation knows that doctors are not perfect. In fact, it has been estimated that around 20 percent of patients are misdiagnosed. For individuals to protect themselves, it is good to be aware of some of the common diseases that medical professionals misdiagnose.

It has been estimated that over 40 percent of the time, doctors misdiagnose some forms of cancer. The reason why this is so common is that the symptoms can be difficult to pin down and could indicate other diseases. It is always wise to get a second opinion, especially when the doctor giving the first diagnosis is not a cancer specialist.

Disorder mistaken for dementia can improve with treatment

Some people in Iowa could be misdiagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease while actually suffering from a treatable disorder. Memory loss and balance control problems are common symptoms of different types of cognitive disorders, but they are also associated with normal pressure hydrocephalus, or NPH. The cause of the disorder is unknown, and some estimates indicate that around 700,000 people across the country could have it, but only 20% have already been diagnosed correctly. In Canada, it is estimated that 1 in every 200 people age 55 and up could have NPH.

One man noted that he began falling down and losing memory at the age of 69, and he shortly began using a walker and a wheelchair. He did not have a definitive diagnosis but worried that an irreversible decline was taking place. However, a neurologist diagnosed him with NPH, a condition that occurs when too much cerebrospinal fluid collects in the ventricles of the brain. It is connected to a condition called hydrocephalus, usually experienced among newborn babies. Failure to diagnose patients with NPH may lead to them being misdiagnosed with a degenerative cognitive disorder like Alzheimer's.

Negligence and medical malpractice

Iowa doctors and other health care practitioners are expected to reach a certain level of professionalism and proficiency. When the required standard of care is not met, the patient may have a claim for medical malpractice. Medical malpractice cases are dependent on a theory of negligence, which means in part that the defendant allegedly failed to meet a required standard of care.

The elements of a medical malpractice claim are that a duty existed between the health care professional and the patient, that the duty was breached, and the patient was harmed as a result of the breach. In order for a court to determine that a health care professional was negligent, the injured party must demonstrate that the medical care provided fell below the generally acceptable standard of care. The demonstration often requires the testimony of a medical expert in the same field. The expert will usually testify regarding the acceptable standard of care and the failure of the defendant health care professional to meet that standard.

Finding pancreatic cancer early is often the key

More patients are surviving pancreatic cancer every year. It’s a relief for patients, families and doctors to finally see better success in the treatment of the disease. The survival rate of patients five years after diagnosis is currently about 9%, while in 2014 the rate was 5%. This is progress, but there’s a long way to go.

Much of the increase has come from faster and more accurate diagnosis. Surviving pancreatic cancer is largely a diagnostic success. That’s why a late diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, to say nothing of a failure to diagnose, can result in medical malpractice suits.

Klumpke paralysis: an overview

Iowa residents who are expecting a child should know that difficult deliveries are not uncommon. The baby can be injured in these, and one of those possible injuries is called Klumpke paralysis. This rare condition is defined as an injury to the nerves in the child's shoulder, called the brachial plexus, and it can cause stretching, scarring or tearing.

Stretching, known as neuropraxia, is the most minor injury. A tear is the most serious and can take the form of an avulsion, which occurs at the spine, or a rupture. Whatever the extent of the injury, it usually results in weakness and loss of movement in the lower arm and hand. One may even notice that the eyelid on the side of the face opposite the injury will droop. This is a rare symptom and is called Horner syndrome. Usually, a physical examination done at birth will detect Klumpke paralysis.

How patients can protect themselves from common medical errors

Iowa readers may be surprised to learn that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. However, patients can reduce their risk of harm by educating themselves and learning to spot the situations where medical mistakes are more likely to happen.

For example, medication mistakes are a frequent cause of patient harm. These mistakes can occur in a variety of ways, such as when doctors prescribe the wrong drug, pharmacists put the incorrect label on a drug bottle, or nurses administer the wrong medication. Patients can help protect themselves by asking questions about every drug they are given or arranging for a friend or family member to act as their advocate when they are incapacitated, such as when they are sedated for surgery.

The five most frequent nursing errors

In Iowa and across the U.S., nurses must face a stressful work environment, and this can cause them to lose focus and make mistakes. The following are the five most common errors made by nurses both new and experienced.

First are medication errors. Nurses are liable to confuse two patients and give one the other's medication or confuse two drugs with similar names. To avoid these errors, nurses should double-check names as well as patients' height and weight, continually update the list of medications and ask patients about any allergies prior to the administration of a drug.

Which mothers should worry about infant blindness?

It’s an understatement to say that the final stages of pregnancy can be a nerve-racking experience. Most expecting Iowa mothers that keep their bodies safe for the babies for months are still afraid that something might go wrong during the delivery that could negatively affect them or their newborn child for years to come.

The amount of risks increases exponentially if the baby comes prematurely. Since their bodies may not be fully developed in some areas yet, the doctors need to be especially careful when examining the child. Otherwise, they could end up partially or fully blind thanks to retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

Misdiagnosis behind the majority of malpractice cases

Central Iowa residents should know that a majority of medical malpractice claims arise because of a diagnostic error, usually misdiagnosis. This was the conclusion of a study published in the journal Diagnosis in July 2019. In particular, there were three types of conditions that were behind most of the errors: cancers, vascular events and infections.

Of the 55,000 or so malpractice claims that researchers analyzed, nearly 12,000 were linked to a misdiagnosis. These claims were filed between 2006 and 2015, and half of them were aimed against primary care physicians, including family physicians and pediatricians. It turns out that 74% of these misdiagnosis claims were linked to one of the three conditions mentioned above. The breakdown was 38% cancer, 23% vascular events and 13% infections.

One type of arthritis commonly misdiagnosed as another

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, people who have polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis have a higher prevalence of tumor necrosis factor inhibitors than those who have rheumatoid arthritis. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis affects the joints of a person beginning at a young age. Like rheumatoid arthritis, it is an inflammatory disease. Because of the similarities between the two conditions, people in Iowa may be misdiagnosed if they have pJIA.

Between 37% and 60% of people who have JIA as children are estimated to have it when they become adults, but they are likely to be misdiagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at that point because they are likely to transition to a rheumatology clinic. The adverse effects of misdiagnosis can include flawed recommendations for treatment. Researchers from the College of Medicine at Penn State University looked for characteristics of pJIA that distinguish it from rheumatoid arthritis.

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