Failure to diagnose and treat a medical condition can have serious, potentially lethal consequences for patients. Delays in diagnosis can cause undue pain and suffering, and a delay in treatment can make it possible for conditions such as cancer to progress from treatable to terminal.
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The Causes of Misdiagnosis
- Basing the diagnosis on a limited review of patient history and potentially inherited medical conditions.
- Failing to order appropriate diagnostic testing.
- Failing to perform a thorough physical assessment.
- Ignoring the prevalence or possibility of “less than likely” conditions. For example, when patients return from travels abroad with bacterial infections not common in the regional area.
- Omitting or incorrectly interpreting diagnostic test results.
Misdiagnosis is Common in Emergency Settings
Ambulatory and emergency settings have high rates of misdiagnosed medical conditions. In these settings, it is estimated that up to 59% of cancers are not diagnosed by the medical team.
Other common conditions that are misdiagnosed in emergency room settings include the following:
- Infections – Up to 15% of cases are misdiagnosed
- Fractures – Up to 19% of fractures are missed during examination
- Heart Attack – Approximately 4% of heart attacks are not diagnosed
Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions in Physician Offices
Roughly 80% of misdiagnosed medical conditions occur in outpatient settings as opposed to 20% in inpatient care. The following are among the most commonly missed diagnoses.
- Cancer – Up to 38% of cancers are misdiagnosed following examination or diagnostic evaluation.
- Heart Disease – Approximately 8% of heart disease cases are missed during an examination.
- Vascular Disease – Approximately 5% of vascular system conditions are misdiagnosed and untreated.
The Consequences of Misdiagnosis
The consequences of a physician failing to diagnosis, or misdiagnosing a medical condition can be fatal. A Chicago area medical malpractice lawyer can pursue damages for pain and suffering, loss of companionship, loss of wages, and the overall impact a misdiagnosed medical condition can have on an individual’s quality of life.
These consequences of misdiagnosis can include:
- Progression of a disease such as cancer from a treatable to an untreatable condition.
- Development of secondary conditions such as organ failure or loss of limb stemming from a primary underlying condition such as cancer or diabetes.
- Undue pain and suffering.
- Loss of income or ability to work.
- Increased medical care costs that can include the need for long-term treatments such as chemotherapy, dialysis, etc.