When a differential diagnosis is not conducted, patients may pay

When Chicago parents rush their ill children to the emergency room, they do so because they believe that something is seriously wrong with their children, and because they also trust emergency room workers and doctors will do what is necessary to figure out what may be causing their children’s concerning health issues.

Unfortunately, when a child does have a serious illness that is accompanied by symptoms that doctors commonly see in other patients, a doctor may fail to conduct a differential diagnosis and instead assume that a child has caught a nasty bug that is going around. Failing to conduct a differential diagnosis is a serious medical error, and this medical error may prevent a child who has a life-threatening but treatable condition from being able to receive the treatment he or she needs to recover.

When doctors do conduct a differential diagnosis, they analyze patients’ symptoms thoroughly and begin ruling out the more serious conditions first. When a symptom does raise a red flag, a doctor may decide to conduct medical tests that may be extremely helpful for ruling in or ruling out conditions.

For example, when a parent takes a child to the doctor because he or she is concerned about the child having a stiff neck and other symptoms, the child’s doctor could make a grave mistake by simply prescribing a pain reliever until the child’s symptoms go away. A child’s stiff neck may certainly be caused by sore muscles, but a stiff neck may also be caused by bacterial meningitis, which can be fatal if it is not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner.

By taking into account the fact that the child has a stiff neck and other symptoms, such as a headache and sensitivity to light, the doctor may realize that the child should be tested for meningitis before simply prescribing a pain reliever.

A misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a child infection may cause a child to suffer serious or fatal health problems that could have otherwise been avoided. No child should have to suffer these consequences because a doctor failed to do a thorough job when treating the child. In these tragic situations, families may have valid medical malpractice claims.

Source: azfamily.com, “Sick kid? Never ignore these symptoms,” Dr. Art Mollen June 4, 2013

Doctor Errors


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