Virginia Misdiagnosis Attorney
Most medical malpractice claims in an outpatient care setting arise because of a late or missed diagnosis. According to The Joint Commission, diagnosis errors are responsible for anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 injuries or deaths each year in the United States. If a diagnosis is missed, delayed, or the wrong diagnosis is given, the undiagnosed condition can progress while it goes untreated, turning a treatable condition into a terminal one.
Diagnosis is a hallmark of medicine and the first step in treating a serious illness. Mistakes should not be allowed to happen here because the doctor’s office was extra busy that day or the HMO discourages expensive tests. If you think you might have been the victim of a misdiagnosis, talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney. In Virginia, bring your concerns to MichieHamlett. Our distinguished Virginia misdiagnosis attorneys have been helping injury victims for nearly three quarters of a century. We’ll apply our extensive medical malpractice experience toward determining whether you were treated below the appropriate standard of care in the diagnostic process. If so, we’ll work to see that you are fully compensated for the harm which resulted.
Why Do Diagnosis Errors Happen?
Misdiagnosis is most likely to occur in a primary care physician’s solo practice. Small doctors’ offices often have a huge workload and large number of patients to see each day, so they are more likely to rush through the diagnostic process. Once doctors land on a likely diagnosis, they might stop there instead of continuing through the process of diagnosis, but doing so can be a critical mistake. A given set of symptoms can be caused by more than one condition, which is why doctors should apply what is known as a differential diagnosis. Through this process, doctors perform tests to rule out possible diagnoses and to confirm their suspected diagnosis once they have developed a single theory as to the correct diagnosis. The most common or simplest diagnosis is not always the correct one, but primary care physicians don’t have the benefit of discussing possible diagnoses with their colleagues.
This is not to say that misdiagnosis does not happen in large hospitals as well. True, medical malpractice in a hospital setting is more likely to result from a surgical error, medication error, or hospital-acquired infection. Nevertheless, misdiagnosis happens here as well. Doctors in hospitals have ready access to diagnostic tools and lab equipment and are more likely to order tests to confirm or rule out a diagnosis. Errors in conducting tests or interpreting results by doctors, radiologists, pathologists and lab technicians can result in a misdiagnosis.
Common causes of misdiagnosis include:
- Failure to order appropriate tests
- Faulty interpretation of test results
- Failure to follow up
- Failure to refer to a specialist
- Mixing up patient records and test results
- Failure to thoroughly review the patient’s medical history
What Conditions Are Most Commonly Misdiagnosed?
Below are the most common and most serious conditions that are most often misdiagnosed in doctors’ offices, hospital emergency rooms, and urgent care centers:
- Heart failure, aortic disease, coronary atherosclerosis
- Cancer/metastatic tumors
- Osteomyelitis (bone infection)
- Pulmonary embolism
- Spinal cord compression
- Renal (kidney) failure
- Urinary tract infection
Symptoms of a heart attack can be misdiagnosed as heartburn, with the hospital sending the patient home with some antacids. Indigestion or heartburn (acid reflux) is a serious condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated, but it’s not a medical emergency like a heart attack. Heart attack symptoms often present differently for men and women, with pain radiating in different areas of the body. Heart attack chest pain is often misdiagnosed as muscle strain, pericarditis or other infections, or shingles in the chest area. All of these conditions can cause chest pain, giving doctors all the more reason to run appropriate tests to determine the cause of the patient’s complaint.
Along with heart disease, stroke is a major killer and disease in the U.S. Early diagnosis and treatment of stroke are essential to preventing some of the permanent or debilitating consequences of a stroke. Doctors and nurses are trained to look for stroke by evaluating a patient’s face, arm, and speech. The acronym FAST reminds providers to check these areas in a timely manner. Nevertheless, symptoms of stroke like headache and dizziness are often misdiagnosed as a migraine or inner ear infection because healthcare workers fail to take a patient’s medical history or perform indicated tests.
Infections often go undiagnosed, even when they are acquired in the hospital. Doctors and nurses should be aware of the likelihood of infection surrounding a catheter, ventilator, central line, or postoperative surgical site, and they should be on the lookout for signs of infection such as rapid pulse and fever. Unfortunately, patients sometimes die from sepsis before their infection is discovered.
Call MichieHamlett Attorneys After a Misdiagnosis Injury in Virginia
Misdiagnosis is doubly harmful; you don’t get the treatment you need for your medical condition, and you possibly suffer harm by getting the wrong treatment for a condition you don’t have. Diagnosis is not an exact science and it’s not always perfect, but that doesn’t excuse misdiagnosis due to negligence. Whenever a medical mistake causes you harm, it’s important to hold the doctor or hospital accountable to make sure you get the care and compensation you need and keep others from suffering the same fate.
If you believe that you or a family member may have suffered from a misdiagnosis of cancer or another serious illness, call the Virginia medical malpractice attorneys at MichieHamlett to share your concerns over a no-cost, confidential consultation.