New Mexico residents with mild traumatic brain injuries may be interested to learn that there are dangers associated with overdiagnosing the condition. Some experts say that the risks around mTBI and other diseases and conditions need to be more accurately assessed. While there tends to be an emphasis on diagnosing conditions as early as possible in the belief that beginning treatment sooner is beneficial to the patient, this is not always the case.
The problem with this approach is that sometimes an illness or condition can be diagnosed very early on when there is little risk that it will become a problem. This can create several complications. The early diagnosis can mask the symptoms of other more serious illnesses. For example, a patient with a psychiatric disorder might also have mTBI, and on diagnosing the mTBI, the psychiatric disorder might then be attributed to the mTBI and remain untreated. There might be non-medical consequences as well. Some studies have shown that an mTBI diagnosis may stigmatize a combat soldier. Athletes might make career decisions based on evidence of mTBI that will never create serious problems for them.
Experts say that one problem is in how people conceptualize disease. Rather than having or not having a certain disease, it is more accurate to say that being healthy and disease-free is on a continuum.
Patients might be harmed by an overdiagnosis if they undergo risky tests to get further data about a potential disease that is ultimately unlikely to be consequential. They might also embark on an unnecessary course of treatment that is more hazardous than the disease itself. A more serious disease might then be overlooked. A person who has been harmed by a delayed diagnosis as a result of an overdiagnosis of a different condition may wish to speak with an attorney about whether medical malpractice has occurred.