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What Is A Medical Misdiagnosis And How Common Is It?

Medical Misdiagnosis

Medical misdiagnosis is defined as an incorrect, missed, or delayed diagnosis. A misdiagnosis is missed if the patient received no treatment by declaring them healthy. It’s a wrong diagnosis if the condition is different from the actual one that affects the person. Lastly, it’s a delayed diagnosis if the treatment is done later.

Medical misdiagnosis is dangerous as treatments that aren’t fitted or delayed can be life-threatening. It’s also a less-discussed issue that needs proper attention. Moreover, getting the appropriate diagnosis is crucial for having the appropriate treatment and also as a way to reduce poor health outcomes.

Read more if you want to learn more about medical misdiagnosis and know how common it is as medical malpractice or negligence.

What Are The Most Commonly Misdiagnosed Health Issues?

Out of the 10,000 diseases that doctors may use to diagnose patients, 15 of those are the most commonly misdiagnosed. Stroke, blood infection, and lung cancer are the top three most commonly misdiagnosed conditions.

Here are the other twelve commonly misdiagnosed conditions:

  • Rupture of the aorta
  • Heart attack
  • Spinal infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Prostate cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Meningitis and encephalitis
  • Endocarditis (heart infection)
  • Blood clots in legs and lungs
  • Colon cancer
  • Blockage of blood supply to internal organs
  • Skin cancer


Regarding cancer as one of the most commonly misdiagnosed issues, if you have experienced cancer misdiagnosis, there are points to consider before filing a lawsuit and getting your compensation; learn more here.

What Are The Warning Signs Of Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis
Doctor shows information on blackboard:

Here are some red flags to watch out for:

  • The diagnosis doesn’t match your symptoms: You may have been misdiagnosed if the symptoms last longer than expected by the doctor.
  • You aren’t getting better with treatment: Despite continuous treatment, the process doesn’t seem to work, and it could be a signal for misdiagnosis by your doctor.
  • Lab test is the sole basis of your diagnosis: Mistakes can happen in laboratories, and different doctors can interpret the testing differently.
  • The required test for a diagnosis hasn’t been given: Misdiagnosis can occur if the test needed to detect a particular disease such as colonoscopy for prostate cancer hasn’t been given.
  • Your symptoms or concerns are not addressed seriously: A lack of investigation concerning severe medical conditions can result in missing such actual disease.

Misdiagnosis On Mental Disorders

Mental health illnesses such as social anxiety and bipolar disorders are health issues that can also be misdiagnosed. It can be harmful to the person because the symptoms of the mental illness can worsen with improper medications. In addition, the actual mental health issues can also persist when a person can’t get adequate treatment due to misdiagnosis.

Moreover, there are mental disorders that are more commonly misdiagnosed. These are:

  • Depression
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Concerning some statistics of mental misdiagnosis, a study showed that 6.6% of patients were misdiagnosed with anxiety disorder, 15.4% were misdiagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, and 1.5% of the patients were misdiagnosed as having a personality disorder. Relation to comorbidity of bipolar disorder may be the reason for the misdiagnosis.

How Common Is A Medical Misdiagnosis?

According to a report in 2014 from the journal BMJ Quality & Safety, 12 million people in the United States alone are receiving errors concerning medical misdiagnosis every year. Also, about half of those errors are considered ‘potentially harmful.’ Furthermore, an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 Americans die each year due to these diagnostic failures, according to Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM).

What To Do When There Is A Misdiagnosis

There are steps to take to be proactive if you feel that a misdiagnosis occurred. The first one is to educate yourself wisely. It’s good to gather information online to help you understand your symptoms and diagnosis. But this step shouldn’t lead you to self-diagnose, and that you should also check whether the healthcare information is correct.

The second step is to ask for a second opinion. A second opinion from another doctor can help you understand your treatment options and diagnosis better. And last is to schedule a second appointment. Doctors often assume that things are normal if they don’t hear back from their patients. But if you feel that you’re misdiagnosed, it’s vital to get a follow-up appointment.

Wrapping Up

A medical misdiagnosis is dangerous malpractice or negligence that medical professionals can do. It can be life-threatening and can cause severe damage. It’s also common malpractice that doctors can make on patients. Moreover, it’s an under-discussed issue that involves all parts of the medical field—and so, going about mistakes in diagnosis means addressing things like human mistakes to traditional but faulty procedures for diagnosing health issues.


Author’s Bio: Farrah Carlin is a healthcare specialist. She conducts webinars to share her knowledge and skills. She also writes blog posts and guests post. Farrah loves swimming and camping with her friends and family.


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