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The most common misdiagnoses, types of error

Misdiagnosis is a big problem in the health care industry, and while doctors and their medical staff have made an effort to control the problem, errors are bound to occur. Due to this, it might be helpful for New Mexico patients to know which conditions are most often misdiagnosed and the type of medical errors that cause these misdiagnoses.

A misdiagnosis is defined as a wrong, missed or delayed diagnosis of an illness or disease. Over the years, the most common conditions that are misdiagnosed have not changed much. Of all misdiagnoses, 4.5 percent are pulmonary embolism, another 4.5 percent are drug overdose or reaction and 3.9 percent are lung cancer. An additional 3.3 percent are colorectal cancer, and 3.1 percent are acute coronary syndrome. Other conditions and diseases commonly misdiagnosed include breast cancer, congestive heart failure, strokes, fractures and abscesses.

However, these common misdiagnoses are different in the emergency room. At Baltimore's Sinai Hospital, one doctor reports that they most often miss heart attacks, appendicitis, acute coronary syndrome, strokes and ruptured abdominal aneurysms.

There are also different types of errors. Of the 4 percent of radiology errors at Illinois' Skokie Hospital, cognitive errors account for 30 percent of radiology errors, while perceptual errors account for the remaining 70 percent. Perceptual errors involve not seeing what is there, and this could happen due to satisfaction of search, which is not looking for more abnormalities when one is found, or alliterative error, which is not seeing outside of a finding already listed on a patient's radiology report.

When a misdiagnosis occurs because of the negligent actions of a physician, medical facility or other medical staff, the patient might be able to file a medical malpractice claim. Sometimes proving negligence is difficult, and an attorney experienced in the relevant laws might be able to assist.

Source: Medpage Today, "Misdiagnosis: Can It Be Remedied?", Joyce Frieden, December 12, 2014

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