Study says misdiagnosis happens often with certain medical issues

On Behalf of | May 28, 2020 | Failure To Diagnose, Medical Malpractice |

People in Iowa who are concerned about a medical issue will do what they perceive to be the right thing and go to the doctor. A key to the proper treatment of a medical problem is an accurate diagnosis. While it is understandable that certain illnesses and conditions can take some time to correctly gauge and treat, it is up to the physician and other staff members to take the necessary steps to discover the problem and address it. However, new research says that certain medical problems are misdiagnosed at a worrisome frequency. This can cause a worsened condition, long-term damage and even death.

A new study by Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with an analytics firm found that approximately one out of 10 people who have one of three medical conditions are misdiagnosed. The three conditions are vascular events, cancers and infections. The researchers came to this conclusion by checking the statistics for misdiagnosis and the damage that patients endured because of it. Some conditions were more frequently misdiagnosed than others. For example, people who had a spinal abscess were misdiagnosed more than 62% of the time. Heart attacks were misdiagnosed slightly more than 2% of the time.

Out of every 20 people who were misdiagnosed while suffering from a condition in one of these categories, one person faced serious harm. Medical professionals and researchers are unsure as to why these mistakes are so prevalent. Early estimates suggest that hundreds of thousands of people die when they might not have if medical professionals had made an accurate diagnosis. It is difficult to quantify the exact reasons for these mishaps. For example, there are obvious symptoms of a stroke such as slurred speech and one side of the face appearing to be droopy. However, some diagnoses require nuance that doctors might miss and they initially think the patient is suffering from a different condition. Nearly 9% of people who had strokes were initially misdiagnosed.

For cancer, there is general agreement that the major mistake is a lack of screening and proper care from the start. This is particularly challenging with cancer and may result in a worse outcome since early detection and treatment is of the essence to arrest the spread of the disease. Once a person has gone beyond a certain point, the treatment alternatives are limited. With lung cancer, 22.5% had what was referred to as a meaningful delay. That can mean a major difference in how well the patient does over the long term.

If a person has had a heart attack, the number of misdiagnoses are comparatively low when analyzed in the context of other mistakes. Still, of the 2% who are misdiagnosed, half of those people suffer serious harm because of it. Infections like meningitis, when misdiagnosed, result in harm for more than 14% of the patients. Patients are advised to remain vigilant about their treatment and not take everything the physician says at face value. If there are questions, it is wise to ask them. When the medical professionals seem unsure as to what the true nature of the problem is, it is even more important to ask about the worst-case scenario even if the doctor deems it unlikely.

People who have suffered harm because of a misdiagnosis could find themselves facing worse physical, emotional and financial issues than they otherwise would have. Medical expenses can be multiplied, they might suffer needlessly and their employment situation could be compromised. Treatment being delayed can shorten their lives or they could die because of it. For those who were injured or whose illness became worse due to misdiagnosis, it is important to understand the process of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. Those who have lost a loved one should also be aware of how to pursue compensation. A law firm experienced with medical errors may be able to help.