Emergency rooms struggle to correctly diagnose atypical symptoms

On Behalf of | Jan 5, 2023 | Medical Malpractice |

When researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine revealed in a 2016 study that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in America, the public, the media and the medical community were shaken. 

It shouldn’t be surprising that a follow-up study released in late 2022 by researchers from the same facility contracting on behalf of the government revealed the deadly consequences of certain medical errors committed in emergency departments – but it is. 

What does the study reveal?

This new study indicates that approximately one out of every 18 patients treated in emergency departments is misdiagnosed. This translates to more than seven million patients per year. Of these scenarios, 2.6 million patients suffer preventable harm due to their misdiagnosis and an additional 370,000 suffer death or permanent disability as a result of these errors. 

Of particular concern are five serious conditions that are frequently misdiagnosed due to atypical presentation of symptoms. Of the 370,000 patients who die or are disabled due to E.R. misdiagnoses, 39 percent are misdiagnosed due to atypical symptoms related to stroke, venous thromboembolism, spinal cord injuries, myocardial infarction and aortic aneurysm/dissection. 

Essentially, when patients present with symptoms that don’t manifest as textbook examples of how a condition has traditionally presented in populations that have been studied extensively, their symptoms are misdiagnosed or dismissed altogether. 

What can patients do?

If you or a loved one has turned to an emergency department for care and suffered harm due to a misdiagnosis, you may be in a position to hold that facility legally and financially accountable. Carefully considering your legal options is important. Recovering from a misdiagnosis situation can be costly and you shouldn’t shoulder the burden of those costs if they should rightfully be paid by those who caused your harm.