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Cleveland Medical Malpractice Lawyer Explains the Difference Between a Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis

Mellino Law Firm

Delayed Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis: Definitions and Dangers

According to Right Diagnosis, “Delayed diagnosis refers to when there is a time delay between a patient seeing a doctor and the correct diagnosis of the condition.” A doctor may administer the wrong tests, read the results incorrectly, or think “no news is good news” and neglect to follow up with the lab. Obviously, this is dangerous because a patient’s symptoms can worsen over time; he or she may even die.

On the other hand, misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor mistakes symptoms of one disease or condition for another. In this case, the real disease or illness continues to progress as the patient undergoes unnecessary treatment, such as surgery, for a disease or illness that he or she doesn’t have. “Thousands of individuals have had kidneys removed unnecessarily because doctors misdiagnosed their disease,” Cincinnati Children’s Hospital reported January 10, 2013.

Statistics, Most Common Misdiagnoses, and Prevention Tactics

Back in 1993, Frank A. Sloan and fellow researchers wrote a book titled Suing for Medical Malpractice in which they reported that, according to their study, 1.7 percent of lawsuits against emergency rooms were for delayed diagnosis, 20 percent were for failing to diagnose a condition at all, and 30 percent were for misdiagnosis.

January 7, 2014, Yahoo reported that as many as 15 percent of patients are misdiagnosed each year. This number may seem low unless you’re one of the 150,000 people who suffers a preventable injury — such as an amputation — or a poor prognosis as a result.

According to that article, the five most common misdiagnoses include excessive foot pronation mistaken for a sprain, exercise-induced asthma mistaken for bronchitis, hypoglycemia mistaken for low blood sugar, hypothyroidism mistaken for depression, and painful bladder syndrome/interstitial cystitis mistaken for a urinary tract infection (UTI). Regarding the latter, “On average, it takes about four years before a correct diagnosis is made,” per writer Kristina Grish.

Patients with an appendicitis, a perforated bowel, a pulmonary embolism, cancer, melanoma, meningitis, diabetes, or cystic fibrosis don’t have four years to wait for a doctor to figure it out, yet all too often these patients face delayed diagnosis or a misdiagnosis. With that in mind, Cleveland Clinic internist Robert W. Jones Jr., MD, offered Grish’s readers the following tips:

  • Find a new doctor if yours rushes through your appointments. “If your MD is overbooked, he’s more likely to make a hasty call,” Dr. Jones said.
  • Rather than diagnose yourself via WebMD and the like, write down every symptom you’re suffering as well as any questions you’ve been wondering and take those to your appointment.
  • Don’t cancel your follow-up visits. “Doctors often need to monitor symptoms and try different treatments to make a correct diagnosis,” Dr. Jones said. If he or she doesn’t seem to be asking proper questions about how your treatment and recovery are going, or if he or she seems dismissive of your answers, speak up for yourself.

Perhaps the best advice of all is to listen to your intuition. As Elizabeth S. Cohen writes in The Empowered Patient, “[One] of the most important ways you can prevent a misdiagnosis is to trust your intuition, that little voice that says something about your doctor’s diagnosis isn’t right. If something doesn’t make sense, ask your doctor about it. If you don’t understand her answers, keep asking until you do. If you still don’t get it, remember that you’re a smart person, and if something doesn’t make sense to you, there’s a good chance it doesn’t make sense at all. The diagnosis might be just plain wrong.”

How Do I File a Delayed Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis Lawsuit in Ohio?

Misdiagnosis attorney Chris Mellino welcomes you to contact our Cleveland office with any questions you may have. To have a chance at winning your medical malpractice claim, we will need to prove that:

  • a doctor-patient relationship existed;
  • the doctor or healthcare professional in question was negligent; and
  • this negligence directly caused injury and/or harm to the patient, such as unnecessary surgery or decreased life expectancy.

We can help determine liability — for instance, whether a lab should be sued rather than your doctor; however, just because you were misdiagnosed or a diagnosis was delayed, doesn’t mean you have a case. You also need to bear in mind that Ohio limits the amount of time a person has to file a claim. Often, people assume that they can no longer file a claim because the patient — such as a husband or wife — has died, when, in fact, they may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Please contact us for details about our settlements and verdicts in such claims and how we may be able to help you recoup compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.


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