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Common diagnostic errors and causes

On Behalf of | May 18, 2022 | Blog, Medical Malpractice

Figures reveal diagnostic errors cause death and injury in 40,000 to 80,000 patients annually. A diagnostic error in Albuquerque, New Mexico, occurs when the doctor diagnoses the wrong condition or doesn’t find one, delaying treatment. Many conditions and illnesses can get misdiagnosed, but some misdiagnosed diseases happen more than others.

Commonly misdiagnosed conditions and diseases

Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis result in 34% of medical malpractice cases causing death or a permanent disability, and 47.1% are high-severity. The big three groups of misdiagnosed conditions are cancer at 37.8%, vascular events at 22.8%, and infections at 13.5%.

The top cancers misdiagnosed at academic centers and outpatient settings are lung cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer. Sepsis, a dangerous condition that damages already infected organs, is among the top misdiagnosed infections, sometimes mimicking colitis, and pulmonary embolism.

Stroke is a vascular event that ranks number four for the most misdiagnosed conditions, which may mimic several conditions. A stroke most commonly gets misdiagnosed as a seizure, and it also mimics migraines and high or low blood sugar. Some other commonly misdiagnosed or missed conditions include lymphoma, Lyme disease, pancreatic cancer, multiple sclerosis, heart attack, and melanoma.

Causes of diagnostic errors

The most common cause of misdiagnosis arises from clinical errors, such as misreading a test or not ordering the right tests. Many conditions have symptoms that overlap with less serious conditions, such as a heart attack can resemble a panic attack. Sometimes, the fast-paced environment of the ER can lead to errors because of overworked staff and lack of patient history.

Sometimes, patient biases lead to a doctor misdiagnosing or not diagnosing a condition, such as age, race, and gender. A younger person could be considered drunk when they really have stroke symptoms, or doctors may view a woman as overdramatic.

While not every error causes harm to a patient, doctors may be held liable for negligence. However, patients only have three years to file a claim, starting on the injury date.