Many patients with one of the Big Three conditions, which are cancers, vascular events and infections, are being misdiagnosed in Indiana and across the U.S. Up until now, few have actually looked into the rate at which they are being misdiagnosed. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have filled in this gap with a study of 15 specific conditions for five under each of the three categories.
Among the cancers were melanoma, breast cancer and lung cancer. Vascular events included heart attack and stroke. Infections included pneumonia, sepsis and spinal cord abscesses. In general, 1 in 10 patients with any one of these 15 conditions was misdiagnosed. Of course, the rate varied with each condition.
The lowest rate of misdiagnosis was found among heart attack patients at 2.2%. This is because doctors have long made it a priority to quickly diagnose heart attacks. None of the other 15 conditions have received as much attention. The highest misdiagnosis rate was among spinal abscess patients at 63.1%.
Researchers warn against the misleading nature of small percentages. For example, 8.7% of stroke patients in the study were misdiagnosed; this may seem like few except for the fact that stroke is a widespread condition affecting hundreds of thousands of people annually. The researchers estimate that 1 in 20 patients who are misdiagnosed for a Big Three condition will incur serious harm as a result.
Diagnostic errors are often the consequence of doctor negligence, in which case victims may be able to file a medical malpractice claim and seek compensation for their past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other economic and non-economic damages. These claims might be difficult to pursue without legal representation, so victims may start by requesting a case evaluation. A lawyer may be able to have an independent investigation conducted and have medical experts gather proof before heading to the negotiation table.