The Washington Post recently reported the story of a woman who was suffering from heart failure; but, the doctors missed the real problem – that her heart was not pumping enough blood – and instead diagnosed her lungs as the cause of her medical difficulties because she experienced symptoms such as frequent coughing and several bouts of pneumonia. Eventually, she got the right diagnosis, but the woman told the newspaper that the misdiagnosis almost cost her life.
Diagnostic errors are one of the leading causes of injury in Baltimore medical malpractice cases as well as medical malpractice in other parts of the country. Researchers have estimated that diagnostic errors led to more than 250,000 deaths in 2013. One study has indicated that misdiagnosis is to blame in about one-third (34%) of medical malpractice cases where death or permanent disability has occurred. The Institute of Medicine has said that one out of 10 medical diagnoses are incorrect.
Researchers have noted that not only is misdiagnosis the most common medical error, but it is also the most dangerous. A survey by Baltimore-based medical institution Johns Hopkins found that diagnostic error or diagnostic mistakes result in death or disability almost twice as often as other categories of medical errors.
Even more information on diagnostic errors is available when specific medical ailments are considered. A recent review of medical records by Johns Hopkins researchers, using data from nine states for the years 2008 to 2009, found some troubling information on “stroke misdiagnosis.” It’s the first study to quantify “stroke misdiagnosis.” Researchers found that women, minorities and people under the age of 45 who went to the emergency room in the week before suffering a debilitating stroke are significantly more likely to be misdiagnosed than other groups. Younger people in the study were nearly seven times more likely to be given an incorrect diagnosis and sent home without treatment despite showing such symptoms. Women were 33% more likely to be misdiagnosed and minorities were 20% to 30% more likely to be misdiagnosed, suggesting age, gender and race may play a role in getting the wrong diagnosis.
The researchers also found that up to 12.7% of people later admitted for stroke had been misdiagnosed and mistakenly sent home from an ER in the 30 days preceding stroke hospitalization. Those misdiagnosed disproportionately complained of dizziness and headaches and were told they had a benign condition, such as inner ear infection or migraine headache, or were given no diagnosis at all. About half of the unexpected returns for stroke occurred within seven days, and more than half of these occurred in the first 48 hours.
The researchers concluded that doctors overlook or don’t pay enough attention to the early signs of potentially disabling strokes in tens of thousands of Americans each year.
If you think you have a Baltimore medical malpractice claim, a Baltimore medical malpractice attorney can help. The consultation is free. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience handling Baltimore medical malpractice lawsuits. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.934.3007 or the website for a free consultation.