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Lubbock County Texas Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Misdiagnosis of MS leads to costly unnecessary treatments

Texas residents who have been told that they have multiple sclerosis should seek second opinions due to the likelihood of a misdiagnosis. A study of 241 MS patients referred to the Cedars-Sinai Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology Center found that 18% of them had something besides MS. Their misdiagnoses had resulted in them being prescribed medications that could produce serious side effects and cost at least $50,000 per year. They also missed opportunities to be treated for their actual conditions.

Many of the medications taken by these individuals exposed them to the possibility of developing a life-threatening brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. The researchers tallied the amount of time that the patients had spent taking medicine for a disease that they did not have at 110 patient-years with a collective cost approaching $10 million.

Reports find misdiagnosis behind most malpractice claims

Two separate reports from malpractice insurers state that most malpractice claims are due to misdiagnosis. Texas residents may want to know the details because they agree substantially with previous studies. For example, the National Academy of Medicine concluded back in 2015 that diagnostic errors may be the third leading cause of death among hospitalized patients.

The first report is from Coverys and focuses on 1,800 closed claims against physicians from 2013 to 2017. Of those, 46 percent were diagnosis-related. These diagnosis-related cases accounted for 68 percent of paid indemnity costs, and they saw 45 percent of the patients involved die.

Younger patients with colon cancer more likely to be misdiagnosed

A study from the Colorectal Cancer Alliance shows that more colorectal cancer patients under 50 are being diagnosed with advanced stages of the cancer. This is due to an unfortunate trend where younger patients are being misdiagnosed and, consequently, treated for the wrong conditions. Texas residents may want to know more because colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, affects young adults as well as older individuals.

Specifically, younger patients are usually diagnosed with hemorrhoids or irritable bowel syndrome because they share with colon cancer certain symptoms like fatigue, weight loss and constipation. The CCA analyzed 1,195 colon cancer patients and determined that 71 percent of those under 50 had stage 3 or 4 colon cancer. Most of those over 50 had stage 1 or 2. Sixty-three percent had to wait between three months and a year to even be screened for colorectal cancer. Many of these had to see two to four physicians before receiving the correct diagnosis.

The misdiagnosis of rare diseases

While certain rare diseases may have relatively few sufferers, they can have an enormous impact on global health when considered as a whole. According to the World Health Organization, around 400 million people suffer from a rare disease. In Texas, a person may be considered to have a rare disease if fewer than 200,000 people throughout the country also have it.

Research into many rare diseases is underfunded. Treatments do not exist for most rare diseases, and for others, a diagnosis generally comes so late that treatment is often ineffective. In some cases, such as with gallbladder cancer, the disease is not detected until its late stages because it tends to be asymptomatic. In other cases, the disease is mistaken for something else because its symptoms are similar to a wide variety of less serious diseases. This is the case with the rare form of cancer known as mesothelioma. Only around 3,000 people are diagnosed with it each year in the United States, and its symptoms are often mistaken for pneumonia or a common cold.

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.

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