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Frequency of Medical Misdiagnosis

Compared to other forms of medical malpractice, gathering statistical data on misdiagnosis is a somewhat difficult task, due to the relatively small number of misdiagnosis studies.

In 1997 the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) commissioned a phone survey to investigate various medical mistakes. 40% of the people they spoke to reported some type of medical mistake, and 48% of these people described their mistake as “misdiagnosis or treatment error”. Unfortunately, the survey did not distinguish between misdiagnosis and treatment error.

Studies that have been conducted in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and Emergency Rooms have shown rates of misdiagnosis ranging between 20% and 40%. However, the rates of misdiagnosis are typically lower in most other health care fields due to the time-sensitive and serious nature of both Emergency Room and ICU care.

In Emergency Room care, the most common conditions to be either missed or misdiagnosed are typically:

  • Acute Myocardial Infarction (heart attack)
  • Stroke
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Meningitis
  • Appendicitis

These conditions lend themselves to misdiagnosis because they can present with uncommon symptoms which are either overlooked or misdiagnosed in emergency care.

In overall (non-emergency) medical care, Davenport (2000) ranks the five most common conditions for misdiagnosis or malpractice as being (in order):

  • Myocardial Infarction
  • Breast cancer
  • Appendicitis
  • Lung cancer
  • Colon cancer

Malpractice suits regarding these five conditions are most often because of either misdiagnosis or delayed treatment.

One of the most effective methods for testing misdiagnosis is perhaps through autopsies, comparing the original diagnosis with the medical examiner’s cause of death as listed in the autopsy report. In a 2001 survey comparing a patient’s original diagnosis with the cause of death reported in their autopsy, a misdiagnosis rate of near 40% was discovered.

If you or anyone you know has suffered from a medical misdiagnosis, please contact the Sheboygan medical misdiagnosis lawyers at the law firm of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ® by calling (920) 459-8000 today.