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Mayo Clinic Study Finds Alarming Rate of Mistaken Diagnoses

Mistaken DiagnosesThe human body is a complex organism—one which may never be fully understood. The fields of science and medicine have made tremendous leaps over the last century or so, which has allowed medical professionals to treat and cure the vast majority of known illnesses and conditions. The first step, obviously, in treating a patient is diagnosing the patient’s illnesses and conditions. While this may seem simple enough, a recent study suggests that a doctor’s initial diagnosis is marginally inaccurate more than half the time and flat out wrong for one in five patients.

Troubling Research

The study was conducted by the Mayo Clinic and was published this week in the online Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. The research was based on the records of patients who were referred to the famed institution’s General Internal Medicine Division in 2009 and 2010, including more than 280 patients. The results of the study found that a second opinion affirmed the initial diagnosis in a mere 12 percent of cases. Approximately 66 percent of patients received a modified diagnosis, and 21 percent got a completely different diagnosis.

There is a caveat that should be mentioned when talking about the study’s findings. Every one of the patients included in the research was seeking a second opinion, possibly meaning the actions taken on the initial diagnosis were not working. Those who were diagnosed and successfully treated by their primary care doctors would not have need of a second opinion. The lead author of the study, James M. Naessens acknowledged that the study’s findings should not be extrapolated to the general population, as the patients in question were seeking help for serious conditions from some of best doctors in the country.

The Dangers of Misdiagnosis

Previous research has found that most Americans will receive a delayed or incorrect diagnosis at least once in their lives. In some cases, it may be as simple as mistaking strep throat for the common cold, but when the mistakes are more serious, the consequences may be as well. The Mayo Clinic study also referenced existing data estimating that diagnostic errors “account for 6 to 17 percent of adverse events in hospitals” and are a factor in about 10 percent of patient deaths.

Misdiagnosis is not Always Malpractice

While a mistaken diagnosis can be harmful to your health, not every situation is the result of malpractice by the doctor in question. The reality is that there are thousands of diseases and illnesses and only about 200 to 300 acknowledged symptoms. Some conditions will present very similarly to others, making an accurate diagnosis extremely difficult in certain cases, even for a board-certified specialist.

Malpractice occurs when a medical professional fails to provide appropriate care or diagnoses that should be expected from a doctor of similar age and training given the same set of circumstances. A doctor who has made good faith efforts to diagnose a condition—including diagnostic imaging, laboratory tests, and other methods—is less likely to be found liable for malpractice. By comparison, a doctor who refuses to acknowledge a patient’s complaints, ignores tests results, or fails to dig deeper into the condition may be found negligent.

Contact Us for Help

If you or a loved one received a mistaken diagnosis that you believe was the result of a medical professional’s negligence, contact an experienced San Jose medical malpractice attorney. Call (408) 289-1417 for a free, confidential consultation at Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. today. We will meet with you to discuss your case and help you decide on the best course of action.

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My experience with Attorney Brad Corsiglia during my recent medical malpractice case was nothing short of amazing given the very stressful circumstances. I was fortunate to find Brad highly recommended from a mutual contact and from the very beginning of the process, Brad was truly engaged and knowledgeable in understanding my case and providing input on what avenues were available to me. Michelle M.