Tampa Diagnosis Error Attorneys
According to a study conducted by the prestigious British Medical Journal, over 12 million adults in the U.S. receive a misdiagnosis every year. As many as 20% of those patients have serious medical conditions, and 28% of misdiagnoses are life-threatening or life-altering. Forty-four percent of certain cancers are misdiagnosed, and over half of all mammograms may be interpreted incorrectly. Errors occur when tests are misinterpreted by the doctor or radiologist, or because the physician failed to order necessary follow-up tests.
Diagnosis is the first step to treating a medical condition. If the diagnosis gets missed, patients don’t get treated for the illnesses they have, allowing those diseases to worsen and progress. If the diagnosis is simply wrong, patients wind up getting treated for a condition they don’t have. The wrong treatment could itself inflict harm on a patient and create new problems that didn’t previously exist. At the very least, the patient’s actual problem is not being addressed.
As a patient’s condition worsens, the original missed or misdiagnosis may become evident, which may lead doctors to correct their earlier mistakes and make the right diagnosis. By that time, however, the condition might have progressed to the point where irreversible harm has occurred, or a condition that would have been treatable if caught early on is now uncurable or even terminal. This is the case with many types of cancers, along with heart disease and many other ailments. A timely diagnosis can be just as important as an accurate one.
When a misdiagnosis has injured you or a loved one, the Tampa diagnosis error attorneys at Greco & Wozniak, P.A. are here to help. Diagnosis mistakes can create complicated cases, but they happen often, and they are a type of medical error our office is used to dealing with. Call us at 813-223-7849 to discuss your potential claim.
The diagnostic process
Doctors are taught the process for diagnosis in medical school. A careful physician will listen attentively to the patient’s complaints and review the patient’s medical history, along with any medical records if available. This process might yield more than one possible reason for the symptoms. Doctors can’t just pick the one that is most common and proceed to treat it. They must perform what is known as a differential diagnosis, using scientific means and methods to determine what the likely condition is. This process involves ordering necessary tests and following up on results in a timely fashion. It might also be appropriate to seek opinions from colleagues or refer the case to a specialist.
Doctors might not get the diagnosis right every time and still not be negligent. But failure to follow the proper steps and give full attention to the diagnostics process is malpractice, and physicians can be held liable for the harm caused by these inexcusable mistakes.
Commonly misdiagnosed conditions
Below are some of the most serious medical conditions that are most often misdiagnosed as something less serious, often with harmful or fatal results.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC. We most often associate a heart attack with chest pain, and chest pain is a common symptom of heart attack, more so in men than in women. But other symptoms can indicate heart attack as well, including shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, fainting or fatigue, and pain in the back, neck or jaw.
Other conditions that aren’t heart attacks can also cause those symptoms. Heart attack is most commonly misdiagnosed as acid reflux/heartburn, although it is also often misdiagnosed as muscle strain, costochondritis (inflammation of the cartilage connecting a rib to the sternum), panic attacks, or even shingles.
When patients present themselves to the ER with symptoms that could indicate a heart attack, doctors should not dismiss that possibility without first reviewing the patient’s risk factors, conducting an examination, and ordering any applicable tests.
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and in the U.S. and is one that is often misdiagnosed. Like heart attack, stroke is a medical emergency that must be caught and treated immediately to avoid death or long-term adverse consequences. An ischemic stroke, where the flow of blood to the brain is blocked, is the most common type of stroke. Strokes caused by cerebral hemorrhage are less common but are typically more severe and deadly than ischemic strokes.
Severe headache and dizziness are common signs of stroke that are often misdiagnosed as migraine or inner ear infection. An attentive doctor or nurse can often diagnose signs of stroke with a simple physical examination. Reviewing the patient’s medical history and medications, along with ordering diagnostic tests, are other steps that can help diagnose stroke promptly and accurately.
Other serious medical conditions that are commonly misdiagnosed include:
- Postoperative infections
- Kidney disease
- Surgical errors
When is misdiagnosis malpractice?
Diagnosis is both a science and art. It isn’t perfect, and doctors aren’t perfect either. To constitute malpractice, a doctor’s conduct must fall below the standard expected of other members of the medical community in the same field. Failing to follow the diagnostic process and conduct a differential diagnosis as described above is malpractice. Mixing up a patient’s charts, records or test results is medical negligence as well. Misreading test results is another medical mistake that likely falls below the accepted standard of medical practice.
Not just doctors, but hospitals can also be liable for diagnosis errors. If an emergency room or other department or a clinic is understaffed, physicians might be rushed to see all the patients and not give the sufficient time that a proper diagnosis calls for. Some hospitals and medical offices have old diagnostic equipment (x-rays, lab equipment) that doesn’t perform properly.
When substandard care leads to injury from a delayed, missed or misdiagnosis, the injured patient likely has a claim for medical malpractice. The Tampa medical malpractice attorneys at Greco & Wozniak can do the necessary investigation and bring in a medical expert to review what happened and determine whether filing a claim against the doctor or hospital is appropriate.
Free Consultation to Discuss Your Tampa Diagnosis Error Malpractice Claim
If you or a loved one may have been harmed by a diagnosis error in a Tampa hospital or doctor’s office, call Greco & Wozniak, P.A. at 813-223-7849 to discuss your case with a dedicated and experienced Tampa medical malpractice attorney.