The statistics are alarming; with medical researchers estimating that upwards of 250,000 people in the United States die each year due to medical errors. One of the most common, and deadly, types of medical errors involves the misdiagnosis of a medical condition or illness. In fact, medical researchers estimate that annually roughly 12 million U.S. adults are misdiagnosed. What’s more, with approximately 50 percent of misdiagnoses having the “potential to result in severe harm,” these misdiagnosis errors aren’t always benign or easy to correct.
The potential harm caused to a patient by a misdiagnosis is dependent on many factors including a patient’s age, overall health and the nature of the error. The following are some of the most common and potentially deadly misdiagnosis errors that occur at hospitals and clinics throughout the U.S.
Three commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions
- Cancer – The rates of cancer misdiagnosis errors are believed to be between 28 and 44 percent with the most common types of cancers involved including breast cancer, melanoma and lymphoma. When it comes to many types of cancers, early diagnosis and treatment can literally mean the difference between a patient’s life or death.
- Heart attack – In their education and training, doctors and nurses are taught that the telltale signs of a heart attack include pain the chest and left arm. While many heart attack sufferers do experience these symptoms, others do not and are therefore often misdiagnosed.
- Stroke – While widely regarded as being a medical condition that affects older adults, even young adults can suffer strokes. However, misconceptions about the prevalence of strokes among younger adults means that many are misdiagnosed and therefore don’t receive treatment.
While doctors and nurses go through years of schooling and training and possess a wealth of knowledge and experience, they are still human beings and not infallible. When it comes to the serious medical conditions like cancer, heart attacks and strokes; a misdiagnosis error can result in delayed or no treatment, thereby increasingly the likelihood of a patient suffering irreparable damage and harm.