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Lubbock County Texas Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Study investigates eye tumor misdiagnosis

Optic nerve sheath meningiomas are rare tumors of the optic nerve. While they are generally not cancerous, they can have severe effects that lead to the swelling of the eyes and a loss of vision. However, many Texans with these tumors are misdiagnosed and given incorrect and unnecessary treatment that may carry significant side effects. At the same time, their actual illness goes untreated, which could lead to the tumor growing to the central nervous system or causing blindness.

Several factors were identified in one study that aimed to investigate the failure to diagnose optic nerve sheath meningiomas correctly. Some reasons for misdiagnosis included a failure to correctly interpret the results of tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In other cases, doctors may rely on preexisting beliefs about a diagnosis or inaccurately assess the state of a patient's optic nerve. The study reviewed 35 cases of patients with these tumors who had experienced missed or delayed diagnosis. The patients had an average age of 45, and the average time by which the correct diagnosis was delayed was approximately 62 months or over five years.

Lack of details can lead to a misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis occurs more often than patients in Texas or elsewhere may believe. However, there are cases when a diagnosis is correct but may not be completely accurate. In other situations, the diagnosis may be too vague to allow medical professionals to effectively treat a patient. Even if someone receives treatment, it may not result in that person getting any better. It is also possible that an incorrect or vague diagnosis could lead to treatment that makes a condition worse.

For example, a person could be diagnosed with back pain. However, there are many different possible reasons why the pain is occurring. When people don't see any improvement in their condition, they may feel compelled to see more than one doctor in an effort to resolve the problem. Patients are encouraged to get a second opinion if they don't feel comfortable with their current diagnosis.

Multiple tests and procedures monitor spread of bladder cancer

Detecting bladder cancer requires specific tests that look for the presence of cancer cells or tumors. People normally experience some symptoms before seeking medical attention. Ideally, Texas physicians will detect the cancer early when treatments have a greater chance of success. The process involves diagnosing the cancer, removing tumors and monitoring for the spread of cancer.

A patient presenting with blood in the urine, even small amounts, should generally receive a urine cytology test. A physician will look for cancer cells within a urine sample. A more thorough test using a cystoscope that enters the bladder through the urethra might be used to collect samples. The cystoscope could also be applied to get a closer look at suspicious growths and inform a decision about proceeding with a biopsy or surgery.

Stress can be a factor for surgeons

No matter what a procedure may entail, it's important that surgeons do not become complacent in the operating room. Unfortunately for Texas patients, any mistake can be potentially lethal. A new study from Columbia University shows that stress can make a surgeon more likely to commit such an error.

Despite the best quality education, training and experience, it is to be expected that surgeons are impacted by stress. However, the Ivy League study found that it was not stress caused by performing the specific surgical tasks that was the problem. Instead, it was stress created by relatively minor occurrences in the operating room that caused doctors to make mistakes. Things such as a machine alarm sounding, a side conversation or a person entering or exiting the operating room caused notable mistakes to be made.

Electronic health records are not always foolproof

Some patients in Texas may be aware of the increased use of electronic health records by health care providers. EHRs are quickly replacing the paper medical charts in hospitals and doctor offices throughout the county.

These electronic records have their advantages. Like other computerized systems, they can retain a large volume of patient information and are easily accessible by medical providers. Information can be added quickly and accurately in real time. In addition, electronic records are easily transportable from provider to provider.

Researchers say optic neuritis is overdiagnosed

Texas residents might be interested in a study that found that the eye disease optic neuritis is frequently diagnosed in patients who are actually suffering from something else. The researchers determined that almost 60 percent of the patients in the study who were referred for optic neuritis were actually misdiagnosed.

Researchers examined the medical records of 122 patients at a Midwestern university clinic who were referred for optic neuritis between 2014 and 2016. Of those 122 patients, only 49 were confirmed to have optic neuritis. The other 79 patients were ultimately diagnosed with various conditions including headaches and other optic nerve conditions.

Costs related to retained surgical instruments tops $2.4 billion

Approximately one in every 5,500 surgeries involves a retained surgical instrument. In other words, the patient has a medical device or item accidentally left behind in them after the procedure. Approximately 70 percent of these surgical devices are sponges. While a sponge or a surgical screw doesn't have a large monetary value for a Texas hospital, the price of a medical mistake can be enormous. The costs per each case of a retained surgical device averages $600,000 in damages and legal fees. The annual costs across the nation are estimated to be $2.4 billion.

Because of the high cost, medical device equipment manufacturers are developing technology to help reduce the number of retained devices during surgery. One of these technologies involves embedding an identification barcode into each sponge. This helps track how many were used during the surgery and if any surgical devices were retained within the body cavity. Many hospitals and health care facilities already have policies where nurses and surgeons count the number of devices used before and after surgery. Unfortunately, human errors still occur with this method. In approximately 88 percent of the cases of surgical device retention, the devices were counted out loud.

Surgeon removes kidney during back surgery without consent

Surgical mistakes that result in what the medical community calls "never events" involve operating on the wrong body part and even removing the wrong body part. People in Texas planning surgeries should know that these incidents happen in about 1 out of 112,000 surgeries according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The case of a woman who lost a kidney during a back operation illustrates how mistakes arise from poor surgical preparation and lack of consent.

The woman had a pelvic kidney, which describes a kidney that did not shift into the expected abdominal area prior to birth. These kidneys function properly, and the position of the patient's kidney had appeared on two MRI scans before her surgery. The legal complaint on behalf of the woman stated that the surgeon did not review the MRI before the surgery. His task during the operation required him to open her body to expose lower back bones that were the purpose of the operation so that an orthopedist could perform the back surgery.

Hereditary neurological diseases often misdiagnosed

Hereditary disorders with neurological effects can be medically devastating, but many times people with these disorders need to wait long periods before receiving an effective diagnosis. Two such illnesses include Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, or CMT, and familial amyloid polyneuropathy, or FAP. Both disorders often have an onset around the age of 20, and they can sometimes be confused for one another. A proper diagnosis is critical in order to provide the correct treatment that can significantly improve patients' quality of life.

FAP can appear in a patient's early 20s, but some cases begin later in life in a person's 30s or even 50s. A protein called amyloid deposits in abnormal locations in a person's body, causing nerves related to sensation and movement to deteriorate. These amyloid deposits can interfere with the nerves that regulate heart function as well as urinary and digestive systems. The disorder can lead to heart failure and even death. Research indicates that the genetically linked disorder is caused by a mutation in the TTR gene.

A technological snafu can lead to medical malpractice

In many cases, medical malpractice involves a mistake made by a medical doctor, called an error of commission, or an error of omission, which is something a doctor failed to do. While such errors continue to occur in Texas health care centers, malpractice claims linked to technological errors are becoming increasingly common.

According to a leading industry watchdog report, simple human error is the leading cause for many of the malpractice issues. For instance, leaving behind a surgical sponge in a patient after surgery continues to be a problem. Findings suggest that a technologically based counting system to supplement the manual count currently performed in most operating rooms would be helpful in reducing this occurrence.

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