Recent research suggests one in ten patients who experience symptoms of a dangerous condition like cancer, infection, or major vascular event will be misdiagnosed.
Published in the open-access journal Diagnosis, the study adds weight to the already disturbing statistics concerning the frequency by which patients are incorrectly diagnosed.
Led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, study authors conducted a review of the literature regarding 15 different medical conditions. Each of these conditions is associated with one of the categories of illnesses known collectively as the “Big Three.” They are conditions related to vascular function, infectious diseases, and cancers.
Taken together, the 15 conditions reviewed represent about half of the diagnosis errors made in the US that lead to death or permanent disability. The conditions are:
- Infections: Sepsis, pneumonia, endocarditis, spinal abscess, meningitis/encephalitis
- Cancers: Melanoma, lung, colorectal, breast, prostate
- Vascular event: Stroke, venous thromboembolism, arterial thromboembolism, aortic aneurysm/dissection, myocardial infarction
An earlier review of medical malpractice claims by the same research team found misdiagnosis is more common in Big Three conditions. Dr. David Newman-Toker, with Johns Hopkins, noted, “Diagnostic errors are the most common, most catastrophic, and most costly medical errors both for society and for individual patients. A place to start is with the ‘big three’ — cancers, infections, and vascular events. Together these account for about 75% of the serious harms from diagnostic error.”
Findings of the current study include:
- The condition most often misdiagnosed is spinal abscess. A failure to properly diagnose a spinal abscess can lead to permanent injury or paralysis.
- Aortic aneurysms and dissections can be quickly fatal if misdiagnosed, yet one in four patients suffering from this vascular event may experience a delay in diagnosis.
- As many as one in five patients with lung cancer receive a delayed diagnosis.
States one study co-author Dana Siegal, “With this insight, health care leaders and clinicians can focus their resources and interventions to target these vulnerabilities.”
In their analysis, study authors note that there does not appear to have been a decline in the number of misdiagnosis involving serious conditions in these focal areas. Despite improved technology and processes designed to avoid a failure or delay to diagnose—the mistakes keep happening at considerable cost to human life.
If you or a family member has suffered serious medical misdiagnosis—reach out to our law firm.
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