Misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose are among the most serious and common forms of medical malpractice. Sometimes, doctors miss signs or symptoms of a treatable illness, delaying or even denying care to their patients. Many times, this results in needless suffering and even death. Up to 98,000 people die in the U.S. each year due to their doctors failing to diagnose their condition.
Nearly every disease or disorder can be misdiagnosed, but a 2009 study identified five serious illnesses that are the most commonly missed by doctors. Here they are:
- Cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is a huge problem in the U.S., causing nearly 600,000 deaths in 2011. Despite it being so common, doctors frequently fail to notice symptoms and order follow-up tests to obtain a proper diagnosis.
- Pulmonary embolism. This is the medical term for a blockage in an artery in the lungs. They are commonly blood clots, tumor cells or fat. They can be very serious. Observers call them the leading source of preventable death in the country.
- Heart attack. While a heart attack itself is usually obvious, virtually everybody would rather prevent having one by having their doctor notice the signs ahead of time. Doctors failing to notice high levels of LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure or other precursors could keep that from happening.
- Suspicious growths. Tumors and other abnormal growths could be cancerous, so they need to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. But the 2009 study found that 12 percent of cancers are misdiagnosed at first.
- Infections. These are misdiagnosed in children especially often. A journal article on the subject found that a majority of viral infections in children were misdiagnosed as bacterial infections.
Source: Daily Finance, “The 5 Most Misdiagnosed Diseases,” Sean Williams, July 21, 2013
Failure to Diagnose