Diagnostic errors affect many patients in Texas, and none more so than those patients with one of the “Big Three” medical conditions: cancers, vascular events and infections. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University led a study that showed just how often patients with one of these conditions are the victims of a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. It comes to nearly 1 in 10.
The investigation involved 91,755 patients whose data had been gathered in 28 past studies. Researchers limited their focus to the five most commonly misdiagnosed conditions in each category. Among the cancers, then, were prostate, lung and breast cancer. Among the major vascular events were heart attack, stroke and arterial embolism. Sepsis, pneumonia and spinal abscesses were examples of infections.
It turns out that 9.6% of patients were misdiagnosed. Oftentimes, a misdiagnosis led to a delayed diagnosis, too, as in nearly 25% of lung cancer cases and in just over 25% of meningitis, encephalitis and endocarditis cases. Diagnostic error rates ranged from 2.2% for myocardial infarction to 62.1% for spinal abscesses.
Of those misdiagnosed, 1 in 20 incurred serious harm. The rate of serious harm varied as well (1.2% for MI, 35.6% for spinal abscesses). The complete results of the study were published in the journal Diagnosis.
A diagnostic error can form the foundation for a medical malpractice claim, provided that there is evidence of doctor negligence and a clear link between that negligence and the patient’s injuries. For example, the patient may have undergone unnecessary treatments and been injured by them. There is also the harm, not easily quantifiable, that resulted from the worsening of the patient’s true condition. Before filing a claim, it may be a good thing to consult a lawyer and to have him or her build up the case.