Medical Malpractice Law

Irreversible Mistakes and Deadly Misjudgments:
The Top 10 Medical Misdiagnoses

A prolonged cough. Chest pain. Feeling a lump in the breast. Sometimes intense physical symptoms can appear to be grave indications of a serious ailment or progressing disease, but turn out to be watered-down versions of the "real deal"; e.g., a lump in the breast that is discovered to be benign cyst. However, more often than not, physical pain or the presence of abnormalities, e.g., a breast lump, is in fact an indicator of a serious medical condition.

When doctors and/or other health care providers fail to detect the presence of disease or conditions that can lead to disease (misdiagnosis), the damages that result are usually irreversible, and quite often, deadly.

The following are the top ten types of misdiagnosis:

Delayed Diagnosis

Delayed diagnosis occurs when there is a time delay between a patient seeing a doctor and the correct diagnosis of a medical condition. Misinterpreting and/or disregarding symptoms presented by the patient, assumption by health care providers of benign conditions, failure to review laboratory and diagnostic reports, and failure to follow-up on tests just because the first test didn't reveal anything (x-rays, CAT scans, etc.) can all lead to a delayed diagnosis.

Failure to Order Tests

Failure to conduct basic preventative tests and maintenance tests such as pap smears and mammograms (to detect disease in its early stages) can result in misdiagnosis.

Disease-Free Patient

Often, a patient undergoes painful and expensive medical treatment - such as chemotherapy, radiation, and sometimes even surgery - to treat a disease he or she never had. When a disease-free patient has been misdiagnosed, and is still experiencing health problems, this can result in serious consequences as the real cause of the patient's ailments have gone unaddressed and quite possibly have worsened.

Improper Treatment

There are a variety of circumstances in which a patient can be misdiagnosed and subject to improper treatment and preventable procedures. These can include wrong limb amputation, wrong organ operation/transplant, inappropriate administration of chemotherapy, and/or prescription medication errors.

Loss of Records

When medical records are lost or misplaced, a patient's entire medical history, including diagnostic lab results (blood tests), radiology examinations (x-rays), and plans for treatment, etc., can become jeopardized and misdiagnosis can result.

Medication-causing health conditions

Sometimes misdiagnosis can be caused by a medication that a patient is taking. Numerous medications have serious side effects, not only prescription medications, but also over-the-counter medications and alternative medicines. For example, long-term use of prescription steroid medications can sometimes cause diabetes, and over-use of over-the-counter headache tablets can in fact eventually cause chronic headaches.

Improperly Evaluated Test Results

Physicians can improperly evaluate test results and/or misread findings, leading to a misdiagnosis. Physicians can fail to read CAT scans accurately and thus fail to detect internal bleeding, spinal cord and brain injuries, causing an illness or injury to progress unheeded. Misread MRIs can lead to misguided brain surgery and cancer misdiagnosis. X-rays, if read improperly, can prevent doctors from recognizing and treating serious conditions like lung, skin, or breast cancer.

Underlying disease missed

Missing an underlying disease is a form of misdiagnosis that is common for conditions that have either no symptoms or vague symptoms, and/or there is a lack of proper understanding. For instance, Dermatopathologists - doctors specially trained in clinically diagnosing skin biopsies - are not always used in skin testing because of restrictions by health insurance plans. General pathologists who are not specifically trained in skin biopsies can misinterpret skin slides and diagnose a potentially fatal skin cancer as a benign rash. Physicians have also misdiagnosed breast lumps in men as gynecomastia, a harmless over-development of breast tissue usually caused by an excess of the female hormone estrogen.

Related diseases

Diseases that share the same underlying symptoms can often be confused. Pulmonary tuberculosis is often confused with respiratory problems and the common cold. Frontotemporal dementia, or FTD, is a term that includes several related brain disorders that are often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's disease. Celiac Disease is a genetic disorder that is often misdiagnosed with other disorders like chronic fatigue, Fibromyalgia, or irritable bowel syndrome. Untreated, Celiac disease can lead to an increased risk of cancer.

Never visiting a doctor

This is a type of misdiagnosis that falls solely on the patient. A person may be harboring an adverse health condition that remains hidden because he or she never visits a physician, whether they are experiencing physical symptoms or not.

Misdiagnosis is a traumatic event and can often exact devastating consequences on a victim and a victim's family. If you have suffered from a misdiagnosis that you believe is no fault of your own, contact a Lead Counsel Medical Malpractice Attorney in your area. If you have lost a loved one due to wrongful death resulting from a misdiagnosis, a Lead Counsel Wrongful Death Attorney is standing by to fight for your legal rights and provide expert, gracious counsel during this difficult time.