Misdiagnoses affect 12 million patients each year. The fatalities from misdiagnosis complications are estimated to reach around 40 to 80 thousand deaths annually. These national trends in misdiagnoses show explicit biases against women and minorities. These outcomes represent a systemic problem within the healthcare industry that goes beyond the quality of medical treatment. Although errors in diagnostic tools are often cited for misdiagnoses, some errors are egregious enough to be recognized by medical professionals. There are myriad factors that could lead to a misdiagnosis. The inattention, bias or other forms of negligence amongst medical staff can compound with simple human error.
The ‘big three’ conditions
Of the diagnostic errors causing severe harm, nearly three-quarters can be attributed to cancer, vascular events and infections. Patients and their relatives must recognize the most misdiagnosed diseases:
Vascular disease: Doctors often misdiagnose strokes because of the number of tests needed to demonstrate what occurred. Many strokes need quick action to treat, shortening the timeline between onset and the resulting damage.
Infection: Sepsis is an extreme immune response to an infection that can damage organ systems. The body typically releases chemicals to fight infection, but sometimes the body will release chemicals that further injure specific organs or organ systems.
Cancers: Lung cancer is often misdiagnosed as an infection when there aren’t diagnostic tests used or immediately available. Common mistakes can include misidentification as COPD, pneumonia, tuberculosis and asthma.
The repercussions of a misdiagnosis
A delayed diagnosis can result in lifelong conditions and severe injuries. If misdiagnosis caused a loved one’s death or permanent disability, it’s vital to determine if a medical practitioner’s negligence was the cause.