Top 5 Common Misdiagnoses

Countless people suffer from medical malpractice in Pennsylvania every day.  One of our previous articles “Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice” states that misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose is the most frequently claimed in a medical malpractice suit, accounting for over 40% of medical malpractice claims. But what are these diseases that doctors and health care professionals are repeatedly missing?

1. Infection

Infections can stem from any type of illness, from a simple cold to complications from surgery.  Diagnosis of infections can be difficult as there are no specific symptoms for it.  To be sure there are no signs of infection, blood, urine, and mucous cultures should be tested.

Different types of infection vary, whether or not it is viral or bacterial.  Bacterial infections are localized pain (pain in a specific part of the body), fever and swelling.  Viral infections are systemic, where several body parts are affected.  It is important to know the distinction between the two because viral infections cannot be cured by antibiotics.

2. Neoplasm (Tumor)

A neoplasm, or tumor, is an abnormal growth of body tissue and can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (noncancerous).  Tumors occur when the balance of the cell lifecycle is disrupted and cells divide excessively.

Signs and symptoms for tumors depend on the type and location.  Some are obvious, but others can be hidden deep inside the body and cannot be seen without a CT or MRI scan.  If a tumor is found, the best course of action is to have a biopsy to determine whether or not it is malignant or benign.

3. Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart is blocked for a long enough period that part of the heart is damaged or dies.  It is usually caused by a blood clot or buildup that blocks one of the coronary arteries.

Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack and usually lasts for more than 20 minutes.  Other symptoms include:  irregular heart palpitations, nausea, sweating and shortness of breath.

4. Aortic Dissection

The aorta is comprised of three layers:  the intima, media, and adventia.  In aortic dissection, damage to the intima (innermost) layer allows blood to dissect into the media (middle) layer and over time, the adventia (outermost) layer and rupture, causing instant death.

Although aortic dissection can be easy to diagnose at times, for instance, when a patient begins to feel a distinct tearing sensation in his or her chest, but for the most part, it can be a silent killer.  This is due to the fact that the symptoms are misleading mimic other illnesses.  Dr. Robert Bonow, the previous president of the American Heart Association states that it can feel like heartburn.

5. Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism is a condition that occurs when one or more arteries in your lungs become blocked by blood clots that travel from one part of the body to the lungs, most commonly, from the legs.

Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism consist of shortness of breath, chest pain and bloody discharge, however, these symptoms are also common of other ailments.  The most commonly used method to predict the likelihood of a pulmonary embolism is the Wells score and blood tests for lack of D-dimer (a small protein fragment present in the blood after a blood clot).  A positive sign of D-dimer doesn’t necessarily mean presence of a pulmonary embolism, but a negative sign of D-dimer gives a good degree of certainty that a pulmonary embolism is absent.