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Study analyzes the frequency of cellulitis misdiagnoses

Researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital conducted a study of patients with presumed cellulitis and published the results back in February. Cellulitis patients in Florida should know what the researchers found out because the condition they have is frequently misdiagnosed.

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin and is considered a common condition. However, the only way to diagnose it is by looking at the affected area and considering the patient's reported symptoms; no other method, or more accurate method, exists. One symptom being skin inflammation, cellulitis can be confused with other conditions that cause inflammation, called pseudocellulitis.

The study analyzed patients at the BWH Emergency Department who had presumed cellulitis. Researchers found that a third had pseudocellulitis. They then took 165 patients who were to be admitted to the Emergency Department's observation unit with presumed cellulitis and set them up for a dermatologist consultation. A third were diagnosed with pseudocellulitis.

Over 82 percent of the patients had their antibiotics discontinued, and half were discharged from planned observation. None showed signs of worsening after being discharged. Early intervention from a dermatologist, then, can save both patients and medical centers time and money in unnecessary treatments and hospitalization stays. Scalability is a challenge, though, since not all medical centers have 24/7 access to dermatologists. Remote consultations may become possible in the future.

Those who undergo unnecessary health care because of a misdiagnosis may be able to file a malpractice claim and be compensated. Connecting with an attorney to handle the lawsuit may be a wise move. The lawyer might decide to request an inquiry with the local medical board and even hire medical experts to bring together the proof of negligence. It must first be shown that there was a doctor-patient relationship and that the patient followed all directions.

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