What can happen if you receive the wrong diagnosis for a severe medical condition? Many things, including worsening condition, lack of proper treatment, delay of an accurate diagnosis or delay of treatment for the actual problem
According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), an incorrect diagnosis can also lead to death. Research indicates that approximately 40,000 to 80,000 Americans die in hospitals due to diagnostic errors annually.
What severe conditions are most misdiagnosed?
If a doctor misdiagnoses your flu as a cold, you probably will not suffer any long-term health problems. However, if your actual condition is life-threatening or severe, the consequences could be dire. The ten most misdiagnosed (serious) conditions in the U.S. include:
- Pulmonary embolisms (blood clots)
- Colorectal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Lung cancer
- Sepsis (severe infections)
- Heart attacks
- Bladder cancer
- Brain hemorrhage
- Prostate cancer
Earlier research supports the above conclusions. However, a separate study reveals that patients with pneumonia, kidney failure and heart failure are also at risk of a misdiagnosis.
Why do diagnostic errors occur?
Many factors can lead to an incorrect diagnosis. For example, not all patients with the same condition experience the same symptoms, making it hard for doctors to pinpoint a diagnosis. In another example, doctors may overlook one or more critical details in the patient’s account of their health problems. Other reasons include misreading test results, ordering the wrong tests and even disorganized digital patient records.
What can you do?
In most situations, diagnostic errors are a form of medical malpractice. When the misdiagnosis impacts your health, finances and your future, you can file a legal claim against the negligent parties. A successful medical malpractice claim gives you financial restitution that you can use to improve your condition and your quality of life. It also holds the responsible parties to account for their preventable mistakes.