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What is Behind the Significant Increase in Diagnostic Errors?

Posted on February 28, 2022

Diagnostic errors are increasing to the point where they are now “an urgent national concern,” reported the National Academy of Medicine. That was the impetus for a new study, published in science research journal Nature, which sought to identify the frequency of misdiagnosis and missed diagnoses, and the contributing factors.

The study focused on lower gastrointestinal perforation, where a hole develops in the stomach, large bowel or intestines. It’s a painful condition that can lead to infection, organ failure or even death. Researchers reviewed data from nine different institutions between 2015 and 2019.

The study evaluated the factors involved with diagnosis, including the patient, the symptoms, situation, and physician. Researchers defined a “timely diagnosis” as one made on the first visit in a CT-capable facility (CT stands for computed tomography, or “CAT Scan,” as it’s commonly known). They also considered it a timely diagnosis if a referral was made to an appropriate medical institution after a visit to a non-CT capable facility. All other diagnoses were considered delayed diagnoses.

As it turned out, delayed diagnosis happened about a third of the time, or 31.4 percent. The initial wrong diagnoses included constipation, gastroenteritis, small bowel obstruction, appendicitis, and influenza. The article noted that some factors contributing to a delayed diagnosis included the absence of abdominal tenderness, the presence of fever, and unavailability of radiology reports. There was also an association between examination by a non-generalist and a misdiagnosis.

Delayed and incorrect diagnoses can be painful and, in some circumstances, cause lifelong health complications or even death. If you suspect that you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice at a Philadelphia hospital or doctor’s office, an attorney experienced in litigating misdiagnosis cases can help you understand your legal options. Tom Duffy has secured 8-figure recoveries for clients in this area of the law. Contact us today to set a convenient time to speak.