Extra tests leading to misdiagnosis for heart patients

Physicians routinely order multiple tests to learn what is wrong when a patient is not feeling well. The results of the tests allow the doctors to decide which path of treatment will yield the best results, and then discuss these options with the patient.

When a patient is complaining of chest pain, physicians will often be very cautious when performing their analysis. They may order comprehensive tests to rule out the most serious issues. Unfortunately, some of these tests may emit false positives, which can lead to unnecessary surgeries as a result of the misdiagnosis. A recent study of doctors at Veterans Affairs hospitals examined this problem in greater detail.

The study focused on patients given nuclear stress tests. These tests show when an artery is blocked, which leads to invasive surgery for those who show blockage. There are specific protocol in place that state when these tests should be administered, but the results showed that there are many more of these tests being performed than are necessary.

Out of the tests examined in the survey, 78 percent were found to have satisfied the criteria. However, 13 percent of the tests were performed on patients who did not emit enough symptoms to run the tests. This is a concern to the study’s authors because of the consequences that can come with negative results.

The nuclear stress tests can cost upwards of $1,000 outside of the VA hospitals. More concerning, though, is the number of patients whose health may be jeopardized by surgeries that they do not need. In some cases, patients may even receive a stent to help reduce the blockage that they do not have.

Patients that have had to undergo unnecessary surgeries may experience adverse health consequences. Those individuals may wish to speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney to learn more about their cases.

Source: Reuters, “More than money and lawsuits driver overtesting: study,” Andrew Seaman, June 11, 2013.


Failure to Diagnose

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