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Lubbock County Texas Medical Malpractice Law Blog

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.

Learn to recognize early signs of ovarian cancer

Texas readers may have heard that ovarian cancer is a "silent killer." This is because the disease can mimic other medical conditions and tends to be diagnosed in its later stages.

Over 250,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer worldwide each year, and around 140,000 succumb to the disease. However, by learning to recognize early warning signs, women could increase their chances of survival. According to medical experts, ovarian cancer symptoms are frequently mistaken for other less serious medical conditions. These symptoms include belly discomfort, bloating, feeling full quickly, nausea, indigestion, the frequent need to urinate, back pain and shortness of breath. Experts say women who experience these symptoms for over a week should contact their doctor and specifically ask about ovarian issues.

Certain PET scans could lead to prostate cancer misdiagnosis

Men in Texas and across the country may be concerned about prostate cancer, especially as it is one of the cancers most frequently suffered by American men. When diagnosing prostate cancer and making a plan for treatment, doctors frequently use positron emission tomography (PET) scans to detect certain types of activity. In particular, they may check for prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA), a specific type of enzyme that is included in prostate cancer cells and has a high level of reactivity. This means that it can be easily detected in a scan and can be used to determine the stage to which prostate cancer has progressed and whether it has spread through the body.

Researchers, however, have noted that PSMA is not only found in cancerous cells and metastases. It is also found in benign tissue in the bowels, kidney, salivary glands and certain ganglia. If a doctor relies solely on a PSMA PET scan, he or she may fail to properly diagnose the stage of a patient's cancer. In some cases, this could lead to unnecessary treatment, which can be seriously damaging to patients' health.

Pharmacist errors increased by 64 percent in 2018

Errors among community pharmacists have increased by 64 percent between April 2018 and June 2018, according to a quarterly report from the National Pharmacy Association. Texas residents should know about this trend as they may be affected by it too. In the wake of the creation of the General Data Protection Regulation and changes to the data protection law, there have been more breaches of patient confidentiality and dispensing errors.

Eight percent of the errors recorded in the three-month period involved breaches of patient confidentiality. Other cases had to do with pharmacists giving medications to the wrong patient and mixing up the prescription slips and names and addresses on medication labels. Workload and time pressures were cited as a factor in 45 percent of the errors. This is contrasted with the previous quarter, where workplace pressures contributed to 4 percent of the incidents.

No system helps anesthesiologists prevent wrong syringe errors

Many protocols have been developed by hospitals in Texas to reduce surgical errors, but anesthesiologists are largely on their own. An anesthesiologist calling for safety improvements within the profession pointed out that anesthesiologists have no assistants or technical systems to aid them when they select and prepare drugs for a patient.

He said that patients basically rely on an anesthesiologist to get every drug dosage correct every time all day long. Anesthesia drug errors fall into two groups. Either the anesthesiologist chose the wrong drug to begin with or grabbed the wrong syringe. Using a syringe filled with the wrong drug at the wrong time could have deadly consequences. This was the problem when an 11-year-old boy died during a surgery 15 years ago. The anesthesiologist had given the wrong drug without realizing it.

New tech developed to screen breast cancer tumors

Texas residents should know that the technology used to screen breast cancer may soon be improving. While many breast tumors can be detected right away, others are subtle because they exhibit heterogeneous behavior, including contrast-enhancing behavior, and cannot be classified based on shape. What seems malignant may be benign, and vice versa.

Screening during a mammogram is currently done through the Breast Imaging-Reporting and Data System. The BI-RADS does have issues with detecting lesions, however, as it is frequently unable to distinguish between the tumor and background tissue. The EU-funded MAMMA project may prove to have a solution. If so, it will save lives, reduce misdiagnoses and reduce the need for biopsies.

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