A recent study by a U.S. medical center reveals that more than 40,000 seriously ill patients die from unidentified medical conditions each year. Misdiagnosis is disturbingly frequent in the acute care setting. This is of deep concern to Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, who regularly handle cases involving serious medical negligence.
To identify the scope of the problem, the research team looked at studies that used autopsies to identify diagnostic mistakes. They found that one out of every four adult ICU patients had at least one missed diagnosis at death.
In some cases, the diagnostic error was so severe that it actually caused the death. Researchers found that if doctors were able to identify the medical mistake in a timely fashion, it would likely have changed the course of treatment and potentially saved the patient’s life. Stroke, heart attack, vascular problems, and infections typically account for most of the deadly errors.
Other commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions include pulmonary embolisms, heart attacks, aspergillosis (a type of fungal infection) and pneumonia. When doctors fail to identify these serious health conditions, severe consequences result. Patients may be forced to suffer unnecessary surgical procedures, extended hospital stays, or reduced quality of life.
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This study reveals a need for more investigation into the actual reasons that doctors fail to properly diagnose medical conditions and what tools they need to better evaluate patients. The ICU is a very difficult environment involving patients with complicated medical conditions. Some patients are unable to communicate effectively due to their condition, so frequent monitoring and testing is key. Autopsies are typically performed in more complex cases, but they can help to identify diagnostic errors in nearly all ICU patients.
The consequences of a missed diagnosis can be deadly. Recently, a 22-year-old was left unattended at a New York hospital for a long period of time and eventually lost her life to an avoidable medical error.
At the time, the woman worked as a waitress and she was also a student at Hunter College. One night, during an all night study session at home, she took an FDA-banned stimulant diet drug called Ephedra. She also had some beers and an herbal sleep remedy. When she started to feel sick, she called 911.
An ambulance took the woman to the hospital, where the situation got worse. After giving her an anti-nausea drug and sedatives, medical personnel left the woman unattended for several hours. She eventually started foaming at the mouth and suffered fatal brain damage by the end of the night.
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In this case, there is no excuse for the lack of medical attention that the woman received. She was not properly treated and monitored, and this medical mistake may have cost the young woman her life. If you lost a loved one due to a preventable medical error, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can evaluate your claim and help you get the compensation that you are entitled to.