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Jacksonville Legal Blog

Misdiagnosis is common for some conditions in women

Accurate diagnosis of medical conditions is among the most important parts of a doctor's job, but misdiagnoses happen all the time in Florida and nationwide. It's a problem that can affect anyone, but women might be more likely to be misdiagnosed according to some studies. Conditions that doctors and other health professionals could miss when women come in include heart disease, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia.

The biggest killer of women in the United States is heart disease, but it is often misdiagnosed because it has similar symptoms to other conditions. Symptoms of heart disease include nausea, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, palpitations and dizziness. Some of these are also symptoms of anxiety or heartburn, so doctors sometimes misdiagnose heart disease as one of these conditions. Cancer, too, is often misdiagnosed as a less serious condition like an infection. A doctor's misdiagnosis of breast cancer, throat cancer, ovarian cancer or bladder cancer can have serious consequences by delaying proper treatment.

Poll suggests medical professionals support hour caps

Surgeons and nurses have different ideas about whether hours working in operating rooms should be capped, according to a recent poll by Medscape. The first of the poll's questions asked if the hours that surgeons work should be capped to lower the number of harmful surgical errors; 87 percent of nurses said yes, compared with 57 percent of doctors. Nine percent of the nurses and ten percent of the doctors said they were unsure on the issue.

Nurses also thought other people in the operating room should have their hours capped more than those in other groups. Among nurses, 89 percent thought non-doctor hours in the OR, such as those of anesthesiologists and nurses, should be capped. Among anesthesiologists, only 62 percent thought capping hours was a good idea.

Deaths from medical errors top 250,000 per year

Though 40 percent of people in Florida and across the nation name health care as one of their top political concerns, accidental patient deaths due to medical errors are often an ignored issue in elections. A study done by John Hopkins Medicine estimates that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 250,000 deaths each year.

Over 18 years ago, the issue drew national attention when the Institute of Medicine released a report that estimated that 100,000 people died each year due to medical errors. New analysis reveals that this number is actually larger, and 10 percent of the people who die in the United States each year die as a result of medical errors. These errors cost healthcare providers $8,000 per each inpatient hospital admission. According to a study published in Health Affairs, 35 percent of nurses don't believe that their workplaces are safe and that not enough has been done to prevent medical errors from occurring. Topping these errors are diagnostic errors, which affect 12 million patients per year; four million of these patients suffer serious harm as a result of a diagnostic error.

Prescription errors common in pediatric residents

Medical residents in Florida and across the United States may be making serious errors when it comes to writing prescriptions for children. A study that was presented at an American Academy of Pediatrics conference revealed that residents who write pediatric prescriptions often make serious errors that could lead to the incorrect dosage of a medication being given to the child.

Researchers from the University of Toledo College of Medicine carried out the study. They looked at the first 10 prescriptions written by 270 residents. The study disclosed that the most common error was writing "as needed" on the prescription without providing a reason. Giving an incorrect duration of the treatment or medication was the next most common error. In prescriptions that required dosage based on weight, 98 percent of the prescriptions didn't note the patient's weight or the weight-based dosage information. The errors were found more often in handwritten prescriptions versus electronic ones. The study also found that junior and senior residents also made the same types of errors.

Many Parkinson's patients may be misdiagnosed

For many people in Florida, hand tremors or a shaky, stiff sensation when walking may point to signs of Parkinson's disease, the chronic, progressive neurological condition. Some people may even be diagnosed with Parkinson's on the basis of their symptoms, especially if they visit a family doctor instead of a specialist. However, Parkinson's is misdiagnosed more than some might expect; there are other disorders that can closely resemble the symptoms of Parkinson's, but the suggested treatments are distinctly different.

Statistics indicate that up to 30 percent of all Parkinson's patients are misdiagnosed. One of the most common disorders affecting people wrongly diagnosed with Parkinson's is essential tremor. This is a movement disorder that can cause uncontrollable shaking in the hands, head, neck, voice box and other parts of the body for brief periods of time. Physicians say that essential tremor most commonly affects people while they are doing something active, like eating or writing. Parkinson's, on the other hand, is more likely to induce shaking when a person is resting. Essential tremor is often linked to a family history of the condition.

Study shows alarming misdiagnosis rate for childhood brain cancer

Getting the right treatment is important for children in Florida who are diagnosed with brain cancer. One type of cancer called CNS-PNET is traditionally diagnosed by the locations of the tumors in the brain and by looking at tumors under a microscope.

A study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology revealed that the traditional diagnosis method is flawed. The researchers were interested in using a new technology to confirm the diagnoses of children who had been diagnosed with CNS-PNET called methylation. They used methylation on samples of the tumors taken from 31 children who had been enrolled in a large clinical trial of an aggressive treatment for CNS-PNET patients.

Patients face many potential risks to their health

According to the ECRI Institute, cybersecurity concerns were among the top 10 hazards that patients face. If a hacker gained access to a hospital network, it could cause harm to patients in Florida or wherever the attack occurred. In some cases, it could lead to data breaches or devices unable to work as intended.

In addition to possible network security concerns, patients could be exposed to blood or other fluids after laying on a mattress or mattress cover. This could occur if they are not properly cleaned and disinfected prior to an individual laying on them. It is also critical that electrical equipment is cleaned properly. Otherwise, there is a chance that spraying liquid onto a device could cause it to malfunction. There is also a chance that liquid getting into a socket or other electrical component could result in a spark or a fire.

Delayed diagnosis: Stroke malpractice

Strokes are serious medical catastrophes. When a blood vessel is blocked or bursts, the brain cannot get the oxygen it needs, resulting in brain cell death. When a doctor fails to diagnose a medical condition that could lead to a stroke, or do not realize that a stroke occurred, they may be liable for the outcome.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability. What are types of strokes, how are they missed by doctors and what effect does it have on the patient?

Doctor's immunity claim denied in malpractice case

On Sept. 26, a Florida appeals court agreed with the state's Department of Health that a doctor cannot use a state program to shield him or herself from liability in a medical malpractice case. The claim arose after the death of a pregnant patient who sought prenatal care at a Department of Health clinic in 2007. One state program that seeks physicians to provide free care to patients provides extra protections, akin to the state's sovereign immunity, for medical malpractice claims arising from that treatment.

However, the court held that physicians cannot use that defense to shield themselves from malpractice lawsuits that arise outside of that particular context. One physician entered a contract to participate in the Department of Health's free-care program in 2005. The doctor was working in private practice when he made the agreement; later, he began working at a hospital in Palm Beach County.