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Beware of these common medical misdiagnoses

On Behalf of | Jul 31, 2023 | Accidents & Incidents

Many Americans in Illinois and other states face death or permanent disability due to a misdiagnosed disease. Many incorrect medical diagnoses have historically remained mostly hidden from the public. As this topic receives more attention, it is essential to understand its importance and the diseases most often misdiagnosed.

Quantifying the issue

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute Center for Diagnostic Excellence found that about 795,000 patients in the U.S. suffer permanent disabilities or lose their lives each year due to incorrect medical diagnoses. The number of lives affected underscores the magnitude of the problem and the urgency for immediate action. Misdiagnoses happen in various medical settings, from the doctor’s office to the emergency room. They typically involve cases where patients have subtle symptoms that could signify a variety of ailments.

Misdiagnosis rates vary

Overall, medical providers in the U.S. misdiagnose diseases about 11% of the time—however, this rate changes depending on the type of medical condition. Heart attacks, for example, are only misdiagnosed 1.5% of the time. Because of their rarity, spinal abscesses are misdiagnosed 62% of the time, and other ailments also have differing misdiagnosis rates. Understanding these variances is essential in developing targeted strategies to improve diagnostic methods and outcomes.

Most-misdiagnosed conditions

Five diseases account for almost 40% of all permanent disabilities and deaths due to a medical misdiagnosis. The five conditions are:

  • Stroke
  • Sepsis
  • Pneumonia
  • Blood clots
  • Lung cancer

According to the study’s lead author, the area of diagnostic errors represents a severely underfunded area of public health. Focusing improvement efforts on reducing diagnostic errors for these diseases could significantly mitigate adverse outcomes. Some sources estimate that improved diagnostics for these conditions could prevent 150,000 deaths and permanent disabilities each year.

The death rate due to misdiagnoses is significant enough to present an urgent public health issue. Understanding the problem’s scale and investing in targeted improvements can reduce the impact of these errors on patients and their families.