New Mexico residents know that there’s always the risk of having a medical condition misdiagnosed. However, this risk is especially high among cancers, vascular events and infections. Investigators at Johns Hopkins University led a recent study analyzing the rate of diagnostic errors among patients with one of 15 conditions: five cancers, five vascular events and five infections. Approximately 1 patient in 10 was the victim of a diagnostic error.

Specifically, the study involved 91,755 patients from 28 previous studies. The mean study sample size for cancer was 14,690 while it was 3,068 for vascular events and 593 for infections. The cancers studied were lung, prostate, colorectal, breast and melanoma. The vascular events included stroke and myocardial infarctions. Infections included sepsis, spinal abscesses and pneumonia.

Overall, 9.7% of patients were misdiagnosed, harmed by a delayed diagnosis or harmed by a delay in the communication of the correct diagnosis. As for how many of these errors led to serious harm, it ranged from 1.2% of myocardial infarction patients to 35.6% of patients with spinal abscesses. The mean rate of serious injuries was 5.2%.

Many conditions were the subject of delayed diagnoses based on an initial misdiagnosis. For instance, nearly one in four lung cancer patients experienced such a delay. Many patients with an aortic aneurysm or meningitis saw similar results.

When a failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis leads to unnecessary treatments, injuries and the worsening of the real condition, victims may be entitled to compensation. Many diagnostic errors are the result of medical negligence: that is, a failure to live up to an objective standard of care. To file a malpractice claim will likely require the help of a lawyer. Victims may have the lawyer build the case up and negotiate on their behalf while they focus on recovering.