High risk for misdiagnosis of common eye condition, study finds

| Sep 24, 2020 | Medication Errors

Although retinal detachment is a relatively common condition, studies show that misdiagnosis of retinal detachment is the focus of a number of malpractice claims against ophthalmologists. Early detection of retinal detachment is important because treatment outcomes, including preserving vision, are better when the reattachment is done early. People in New Mexico may be misdiagnosed because of an inattentive staff or inadequate information about risk factors for retinal detachment among other reasons.

What the research found

The study by the Ophthalmic Mutual Insurance Company involved more than 1,600 ophthalmic malpractice cases over a seven-year period. It found that among the nearly 14% that involved diagnostic error, 38% involved the retina and 29% were cases of retinal detachment. Retinal detachment had, by far, the highest number of missed diagnoses. Since this is a condition ophthalmologists are familiar with, it raised the question of why physicians might be missing it, particularly since 85% of the people misdiagnosed had risk factors for it.

Reasons for missed diagnoses

An effective team is one important element of ensuring that retinal detachment is correctly diagnosed. In a busy office, staff may simply fail to get an adequate history from patients or might not pass relevant information on to one another. How patients are treated is also important since if they feel they are treated rudely, they might not return for necessary additional visits. Physician focus is important as well. From patient texts to trying to keep up with frequently-changing regulations, ophthalmologists may face a number of distractions during exams. Finally, patients need to be educated about risk factors.

Risk factors

Those risk factors can include eye trauma, either recently or years earlier, as well as retinal detachment in the other eye. Certain conditions, such as myopia, also increase the risk.

An untreated retinal detachment could lead to a loss of vision. A person who suffers harm from a misdiagnosis that happens because of negligence on the part of the medical staff may be eligible to receive compensation. An attorney may be able to advise regarding how to proceed.

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