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Misdiagnosis of Foreign Body Aspiration is a Common Cause of Child Morbidity

Child MorbidityYoung children are known for putting odd, strange, and dangerous things in their mouths. Typically, they are taken to the emergency room for such issues, and doctors diagnose the obstruction and quickly remove it. Unfortunately, there are also numerous cases in which the obstruction goes undiagnosed or is misdiagnosed as another condition. This can lead to serious complications – and it is far more common than most parents realize. The following information explains further.

Understanding the Risk

Foreign bodies in the aerodigestive tract remain one of the major causes of death for young children. Absence of teeth, a propensity for mouthing things, and crying or playing while eating are all considered contributing factors. Peanuts, coins, small toys, magnets, button batteries, rocks, and other items are extremely common and pose a serious risk to children. For most, it is the concern of obstruction. However, some objects, such as magnets and button batteries, can quickly lead to issues within the digestive tract, even if they are completely swallowed.

How Common is Misdiagnosis?

Recently, a Long Beach mother took her 8-month-old son to the emergency room with a fever and a rash. Doctors diagnosed him with a viral infection and sent the mother and son home. When her son grew sicker, the fever increasing and the rash spreading, she reportedly returned to the same emergency room on at least five separate occasions.

Rather than address her concerns, the mother said she felt as if she was being criticized by the doctors. They allegedly even questioned her ability to pay for the bills. Finally, fed up, she took her son to another emergency care center. There, doctors performed an X-ray and found a penny obstructing the boy’s esophagus. It was compromising his breathing and, based upon the level of corrosion, had been there for a good three weeks. It was removed and the boy did thankfully recover.

This mother is not alone. In fact, one case study highlighted another child who was misdiagnosed with vocal cord paralysis. The child exhibited no signs of wheezing, no visible signs of a foreign body, and no notable obstruction – only difficulty swallowing – the doctors seemed confident in their diagnosis. It was eventually revealed that the boy had, instead, swallowed a spring. It was uncovered after doctors took an X-ray of his neck. Only then was the obstruction removed.

Cases and news stories like those above are more common than most parents realize, and not all children fare quite as well. Some ultimately suffer morbidity because of their obstruction. Others experience other complications, such as those experienced by children who swallow button batteries (can erode the esophagus and digestive tract on contact) and magnets (can attract one another in the digestive tract and perforate the intestines). Both situations can ultimately lead to morbidity as well.

What to do if You Suspect Your Child has Swallowed Something

Like the mother who fought and took her child in repeatedly, any parent who suspects a misdiagnosis should gain a second, third, and fourth opinion. You know your child. You know when something is wrong. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Also, if a misdiagnosis leads to injury, it is important that you understand your rights, particularly your right to pursue compensation.

At Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P., we fight to protect the rights and interests of parents and their children. Dedicated and experienced, our San Jose medical malpractice lawyers pursue the most favorable outcome possible for every solution. Schedule your personalized consultation to learn more about how we can help with your case. Call (408) 289-1417 in Santa Clara, San Benito, San Mateo, Monterey, or Alameda today.

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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.