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Nearly 10% of certain diseases are misdiagnosed

Cancers, vascular events and infections tend to be the most misdiagnosed of all medical conditions, and a new study from Johns Hopkins University has analyzed the rate at which this happens. Washington residents should know that 15 medical conditions were analyzed, with five under each of the three categories.

More than 91,000 patients from 28 past studies formed the subject of the study. Cancers made up a mean study sample size of 14,690 cases, vascular events 3,068 and infections 593. The five cancers studied were melanoma and lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancer. The vascular events included stroke, myocardial infarctions and aortic aneurysms. Among the infections were sepsis, pneumonia and spinal abscesses.

Approximately 1 in 10 patients were the victims of a diagnostic error. The error was either a misdiagnosis, a delayed diagnosis or a delay in the communication of that diagnosis. The error rate varied, with myocardial infarctions being misdiagnosed in 2.2% of patients but spinal abscesses being misdiagnosed in 62.1% of patients.

An aggregate mean of 5.2% of patients suffered serious harm as a result of the error. Again, individual rates varied with MI-related diagnostic errors severely harming 1.2% and errors concerned with spinal abscesses harming 35.6%. Also, many delayed diagnoses resulted from a misdiagnosis. This was the case for almost 25% of the lung cancer patients.

Under medical malpractice law, victims of a diagnostic error may be entitled to compensation. What victims must do is show that the error was caused because their doctor failed to live up to objective standards of medical care. They must also show that there was a preexisting doctor-patient relationship and that they followed all their doctors’ instructions. Malpractice claims can be hard to pursue, so victims may wish to retain legal counsel before moving forward.

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