A study of clinical negligence claims in the U.S. over a 25-year period found misdiagnoses, or diagnostic errors, to be “the most common, most costly and most dangerous of medical mistakes.” The problem is that a missed or delayed diagnosis prevents a patient from getting medical treatment when it is needed in order to prevent the condition from worsening.
If you suspect that you or a loved has been harmed due to a misdiagnosis in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois, you should have your case investigated without delay by an attorney. Medical records should be thoroughly reviewed, and the treatment should be analyzed by qualified medical experts.
To receive a free and confidential consultation, contact Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., today. We can aggressively seek the answers and the compensation you deserve.
Common Types of Medical Misdiagnosis Cases
Many people who are the victims of a misdiagnosis are not certain, at first, whether their doctor did something wrong. Yet, the reality is that physicians make many different kinds of diagnostic errors that can give rise to a malpractice claim.
Common types of misdiagnoses are:
Botched Lab Tests:
Medical labs process hundreds of samples every day. Labs can make errors including:
- Contaminating samples
- Testing the wrong patient sample
- Reporting the wrong results for the wrong patient.
When errors occur, you may be diagnosed with a medical condition you don’t have or your own health problems might not be identified. The facility that performed the testing can be held accountable for unreasonable mistakes.
According to Partners HealthCare Systems, primary care doctors review an average of 40 radiological reports, 12 pathology reports, 460 hematology reports and 360 chemistry test results every week.
Both primary care doctors and specialists also review many other types of diagnostic tests and can make mistakes that include misreading:
- PET scans
- Blood tests.
Failure to correctly read test results can result in the misdiagnosis of serious conditions such as cancer, heart attack and blood clots.
Failure to Order or Follow Up On Testing:
After a survey of 300 doctors and 22 hospitals, the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality reported that 44 percent of diagnostic errors occurred because of a failure to order, read or follow up on test results. Mistakes included:
- Declining to order appropriate tests indicated by symptoms
- Failing to obtain the results of lab tests
- Failure to contact patients with abnormal test results.
Lost lab results have serious consequences. For instance, out of the 582 errors that the Agency for Healthcare Quality identified, 28 percent resulted in death, permanent disability or a near-death medical event.
Medical conditions have recognizable symptoms that doctors should recognize and respond to promptly. For example, a patient complaining of a persistent cough and coughing up blood should be tested for lung cancer.
If a physician fails to recognize symptoms and fails to either refer you to a specialist or order appropriate follow-up testing and treatment, this could result in serious harm.
Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions
A study published in the medical journal, BMJ Quality & Safety, found diagnostic errors to be the leading cause of medical malpractice claims involving death and disability. Another study found that diagnostic errors could impact as many as 12 million people in our country, or one out of every 20 adults.
Johns Hopkins researchers have identified the following to be the most commonly missed diagnoses:
Stroke / Heart attack – The signs and symptoms of a stroke or heart attack such as chest pain or severe headaches may lead to the diagnosis of heartburn, ear infection or a migraine headache. A patient, in turn, may not receive timely, life-saving treatment such as use of “clot-busting” drugs. As NPR reports, one study published in the journal, Diagnosis, found that almost 13 percent of people who were diagnosed with strokes had visited the hospital less than 30 days earlier (and a quarter of these patients were sent home with the diagnosis of a benign condition or no diagnosis at all).
Pulmonary embolism – A study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine found that emergency rooms delayed diagnosing 33.5 percent of patients who presented symptoms of pulmonary embolism, or blockage in the lung’s main artery.
Pneumonia – One study published in the journal, Critical Care, concluded that standard chest X-rays failed to catch pneumonia (a serious lung infection) in 47 percent of the cases analyzed.
Aspergillosis – A study reported by the World Health Organization noted that people suffering from a fungal infection in the lungs called chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA) often go untreated for the condition because it is mistaken for the recurrence of tuberculosis.
Doctors may also miss or delay diagnosing the following conditions
Cancer – The journal BMJ Quality and Safety estimates that 28 percent of cancer cases are misdiagnosed, including breast cancer and colorectal cancer. The longer the delay in diagnosing cancer, the lower the survival rate due to delays in treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy.
Cerebral palsy – As a study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood noted, many children are misdiagnosed as having cerebral palsy when, in reality, they suffer from a condition that presents similar symptoms. This prevents treatable conditions from being properly addressed by doctors.
Pregnancy-related complications – Doctors may fail to test for or identify numerous problems that arise during pregnancy, which can put the health of the mother and child at risk. Ectopic pregnancy, preeclampsia, miscarriage, RH disease, gestational diabetes and placenta and umbilical cord complications may go undiagnosed or diagnosed too late.
Why Do Missed or Delayed Diagnoses Occur?
Obtaining your medical records is important if you suspect you have a medical malpractice claim based on misdiagnosis. An attorney can review your medical records and consult with experts who can identify what went wrong.
Some of the common things to look for in medical records indicating a doctor made an unacceptable error include:
- Your doctor failed to order appropriate tests given your symptoms such as an X-ray, CT scan, MRI, blood tests or biopsy.
- Medical tests were read incorrectly by a pathologist.
- Your doctor failed to follow up to obtain results of medical tests or failed to communicate test results to you.
- Lab results were misplaced.
- The lab read the wrong sample.
- The lab mixed up your lab results with another patient’s results.
- Your doctor missed obvious signs of serious illness or injury in your test results.
While many different mistakes can lead to misdiagnosis, these are some of the most common red flags that suggest you may have a claim against your physician or care provider.
Contact a Misdiagnosis Lawyer Serving Chicago and Illinois
Illinois law allows you to make a personal injury claim for a missed or delayed diagnosis if:
- Your prognosis was worse because of the error
- You had to undergo more invasive, expensive or risky medical treatment
- You experienced significant pain or impairment because of the misdiagnosis
- You received treatment you did not require
- Your loved one died due to the medical error.
In any situation where the physician’s actions caused harm, you should be compensated in full for both economic and non-economic losses that resulted.
At Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., our attorneys handle misdiagnosis claims throughout Chicago and Illinois. We are here to help with your case. Give us a call or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation.
Sources / More Information:
- Warning Signs of a Heart Attack, American Heart Association
- Stroke Warning Signs and Symptoms, American Stroke Association
- Global Burden of Chronic Pulmonary Aspergillosis as a Sequel to Pulmonary Tuberculosis, World Health Organization
- Emergency Docs More Likely to Miss Signs of Stroke in the Young, NPR
- 10 Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions, Every Day Health
- Clinical Features of Patients Inappropriately Undiagnosed of Pulmonary Embolism, American Journal of Emergency Medicine
- Normal-Looking Radiographs Can Delay Pneumonia Diagnosis, EB Medicine
- Misdiagnosis is More Common than Drug Errors or Wrong-Site Surgery, Washington Post
- Misdiagnosed Cancer Not Uncommon, ABC News
- Cerebral Palsy: Not Always What It Seems, Archives of Disease in Childhood
- Value of Second Opinions Is Underscored in Study of Biopsies, New York Times