No medical professional sets out to purposefully misdiagnose a patient. However, mistakes still happen for a variety of reasons such as rushing the examination, not listening to the patient and failing to review diagnostic tests. When doctors make such careless mistakes, there must be accountability. If you believe that you were misdiagnosed by a healthcare provider at any point since you started seeking medical treatment, please consider contacting an attorney who routinely advocates on behalf of medical malpractice victims. In the meantime, one way you can help protect yourself from the danger of misdiagnosis is to understand the types of conditions that are more commonly misdiagnosed. These conditions include cancer, heart attack, stroke, chronic kidney disease, asthma, and staph infection.
Certain cancers such as skin cancer or colon cancer are relatively easy to diagnose through biopsy, other cancers are more subtle. For example, testicular cancer can present as a painless bump on one of the testicles. The examining physician may be reluctant to do the necessary physical exam followed by ultrasound causing the cancer to go undetected. Untreated testicular cancer can lead to metastasis (spread) and eventually death. If you feel like the doctor is rushing through the exam and not taking your problems seriously, seek a second opinion.
Heart attack symptoms can easily be mistaken for other, less dangerous medical problems such as heartburn, acid reflux, esophagitis and bronchitis. However, similarity of symptoms is not the only factor leading to heart attack misdiagnosis. Victims are often overlooked simply because they don’t fit the profile that the health care professionals expect. For this reason, younger people and women are often misdiagnosed.
Stroke can commonly mimic migraine, epileptic seizures or postictal states, psychogenic disease or conversion disorder, toxic-metabolic abnormalities and demyelinating disease. There are two basic types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Time is critical when treating strokes—every minute matters. If a stroke is suspected, request a CT Scan and MRI or ask a family member to do so on your behalf. Requesting the proper diagnostic tests in a timely manner is very important and one way to protect yourself from misdiagnosis.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease is detected using an eGFR test. However, the test is unreliable when used with people with acute kidney injury, pregnant women, patients with serious co-morbid conditions (such as cancer), people with extremes in muscle mass and diet, amputees and those suffering from malnutrition. People who receive this diagnosis should be extra careful and seek a second medical opinion if in doubt.
Asthma is a disease whose symptoms are caused by variable airflow obstruction. It usually varies throughout the day and certainly by the week or month. If asthma symptoms don’t appear to vary, it’s possible the condition was misdiagnosed. A few diseases that mimic asthma symptoms are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, rhinosinusitis, heart failure and anxiety.
A MRSA skin infection is sometimes mistaken for a large pimple, impetigo, or spider bite due to similar appearance. If MRSA isn’t suspected, it could be misdiagnosed and treated with an ineffective or resistant antibiotic. One way to protect yourself from misdiagnosis is to request a culture of the wound. This will allow your doctor to see if the infection improved or worsened; they can then correctly diagnose the condition and determine the appropriate treatment.
It’s important to emphasize again that even if one of these conditions – or some other serious disease or medical condition – is misdiagnosed, there is no medical malpractice unless the misdiagnosis caused harm or injury to the patient, and the patient, with an attorney’s help, is able to prove it. The type of harm can vary, but can include unneeded surgery, a higher risk for complications, unnecessary exposure to risky treatments (like chemotherapy or radiation therapy), and a higher risk for death. If you’re ever in doubt, Bell Law Firm can help answer your questions.