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Misdiagnosis Malpractice

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A misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a medical conditions can result in serious injury or death.

Misdiagnosis of symptoms and failure to properly diagnose a medical condition are two of the most common mistakes by doctors and other medical professionals.

Many serious medical conditions share some of the same symptoms as less serious conditions – this can lead to misdiagnosis.  Doctors are trained to use a technique called Differential Diagnosis, and systematically test for (and eliminate) the most serious conditions first.  If done properly, the Differential Diagnosis technique ensures that a serious condition won’t be missed because it shares symptoms with a mild condition and the doctor assumes that the patient probably has the more common, mild condition. However, if a physician does not perform a Differential Diagnosis, the odds of missing a serious condition dramatically increase.

There are also many conditions that require a specialist for diagnosis.  Doctors who do not refer patients out to specialists on certain types of conditions take an unnecessary risk of misdiagnosis, with potentially devastating consequences for their patients.

The most common misdiagnosed diseases and medical conditions are:

  • Cancer. Cancer often presents symptoms common to a number of other, milder conditions. The Journal of Clinical Oncology estimates that certain types of cancer are misdiagnosed nearly half the time. But the stakes are too high with cancer. Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose cancer of course leads to a significant delay in treatment, which allows the cancer to spread. Timely diagnosis of cancer is often the difference between a patient surviving the illness or passing because of it. Factors that lead to a cancer misdiagnosis include:
    • Failing to refer a patient to the right specialist;
    • Failing to order the right testing and screening for a particular cancer;
    • Failing to consider a patient’s family medical history in making a diagnosis;
    • Failing to correctly interpret the results of medical tests; and
    • Failing to schedule important follow up appointments and tests.
  • Heart attack. Emergency room physicians sometimes fail to conduct the necessary tests to rule out a heart attack and instead diagnose a patient with indigestion, heartburn, or anxiety. Because heart attacks are lethal, failing to rule them out before diagnosing a milder condition falls short of the standard of care required of doctors. Heart attack misdiagnosis generally occurs when doctors:
    • Fail to recognize signs of a heart attack;
    • Fail to order vital tests, like a coronary angiography;
    • Misread test results, like an EKG, MRI, carotid ultrasound, blood test, or other lab result; or
    • Fail to follow up on lab test results.
  • Stroke. Strokes must be treated within the first 3 hours of symptom onset to prevent or reduce permanent damage. If a stroke isn’t diagnosed before 48 to 72 hours after symptom onset, then medical intervention can no longer help the victim’s ultimate outcome. Just as doctors sometimes confuse heart attacks with indigestion because of the similar symptoms, they also sometimes confuse strokes with migraine headaches or vertigo due to the similar symptoms. Stroke misdiagnoses can occur when physicians:
    • Fail to recognize stroke symptoms (this happens often with young people, who do not fit the typical profile for a stroke candidate, and may therefore be prematurely discharged by a doctor assuming that they must be experiencing vertigo, a migraine headache, or just drunkenness); or
    • Fail to order important tests, like a computed tomography ateriogram and magnetic resonance arteriogram for potential stroke victims.

Failure to properly and timely diagnose stroke can result in permanent brain damage or even death for the patient.

Some of the most common types of medical misdiagnosis are:

Mismanaged and Failed Lab Tests:

Medical labs that process hundreds of samples on a daily basis make mistakes, like:

  • Contaminating samples;
  • Testing the wrong patient sample; and
  • Reporting results to the wrong patient.

In a mismanaged lab test situation, you could be diagnosed with a condition that you don’t have, and worse, the health issues that you actually do have might not be properly identified and disclosed to you, so that you can get the right treatment.

Misread Test Results:

Primary doctors and specialists review many diagnostic tests, including CT-scans, MRIs, X-rays, blood tests, and PET scans. Their failure to correctly read and interpret test results can have catastrophic consequences for patients, including cancer, heart attacks, and blood clots.

Failure to Order or Follow Up On Testing:

Medical malpractice can occur when physicians fail to:

  • Order the appropriate tests indicated by symptoms;
  • Obtain the results of lab tests;; or
  • Contact patients with abnormal test results.

Misidentified Symptoms:

This generally occurs when doctors fail to perform a differential diagnosis by eliminating the most serious possible conditions first, and then proceeding to more common (and mild) conditions. For example, a patient who complains about a persistent cough and coughing up blood should always be tested for lung cancer. Likewise, a patient complaining of sharp chest pain must be tested for a heart attack, even if the physician suspects that the patient is more likely suffering from indigestion.

You need to get your medical records if you think you’ve got a potential malpractice issue.  We can help you get those records and, more important, we can review those records with medical experts to help get you answers on whether you or a loved one was the victim of medical malpractice based on a missed or delayed diagnosis.

Here are some of the things that we look for in reviewing medical records for evidence of a missed or delayed diagnosis:

  • Your doctor didn’t order appropriate tests based on your symptoms, like an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, blood tests, or biopsy.
  • A pathologist incorrectly read your medical tests.
  • Your doctor didn’t follow up to obtain test results or failed to communicate those test results to you.
  • The lab misplaced your test results, read the wrong sample, or mixed up your lab results with someone else’s.
  • Your doctor missed clear signs of a serious medical condition when reviewing your test results.

Contact our Minnesota Misdiagnosis  Lawyer Today.

Call our Minneapolis Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis Lawyer today at 612.349.2729, or fill out the form below. You need help from someone who knows what they are doing, to:

a) get all of your medical records;
b) get them to an expert for evaluation;
c) do a legal analysis of your case; and
d) get your case served within the statute of limitations, along with the Certificate of Expert Review.