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How common are misdiagnoses?

On Behalf of | Oct 28, 2014 | Failure to Diagnose |

One of the most common forms of diagnostic failure in Florida, and the United States in general, is the failure to diagnose a condition. The most common types of lawsuits for failing to diagnose or for a delayed diagnosis are for breast cancer, lung cancer, heart attack, appendicitis and colon cancer.

Although these are not the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions, they are the ones that usually cause the most harm the fastest. It is very common for doctors to misdiagnose hypertension and diabetes, but they do not lead to as many lawsuits because the harm from these conditions is not as severe nor does it manifest itself as quickly. These conditions also generally result in smaller awards from successful lawsuits.

The conditions most likely to not be diagnosed are Toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite, sleep disorders and Otosclerosis, a genetic ear bone disorder. There are believed to be millions of people in the United States who are unaware that they have these conditions. While the number of people who are unaware of having breast cancer is far lower, it is still a significant total.

If a medical condition is not diagnosed properly or a diagnosis is delayed, an individual’s condition can get worse and even lead to the development of other medical conditions, especially if the patient is being treated for the wrong ailment. Large medical bills also often result from increased medical attention that becomes needed. A patient who has been the victim of a delayed or incorrect diagnosis may have legal recourse, and an initial consultation with a medical malpractice attorney is recommended.

When Florida residents go to a doctor, they usually expect to have their problem identified and a solution provided. While this happens in the majority of cases, a recent study found that a misdiagnosis occurs in approximately 10 to 15 percent of doctor visits when someone has a new problem. Even if a patient is eventually diagnosed correctly, the delay can lead to a rise in the cost of health care due to unnecessary tests and enabling the patient’s condition to worsen by not treating it immediately.

Errors in diagnosing a patient occur half as frequently in hospital settings, but they can be more dangerous since many hospital patients are in worse conditions than those in a doctor’s office. There are a number of reasons for even the best doctors to get a diagnosis wrong. Some of the most common are communication issues between a doctor and patient, test result errors and a lack of followup from either the doctor or patient.

Miscommunication can stem from a patient not being clear enough about their symptoms, a doctor not asking the right questions or making incorrect assumptions about a patient. Diagnostic errors also occur between two and four percent of the time due to lab results that are incorrect. Patients can also throw doctors off the mark by not reporting new information, such as not informing the doctor of new medications or stopping taking old medications and not reporting it.

Misdiagnosis can lead to major health issues for patients, and in some cases it can lead to death. If someone has been diagnosed incorrectly and harmed because of it, they may have legal options available, such as filing a personal injury lawsuit based on medical malpractice.


Source: Right Diagnosis, “How Common is Failure to Diagnose?“, October 24, 2014

Source: Consumer Reports, “Mistakes even good doctors make“, October 31, 2013