As a patient with an injury or illness, you want to make sure you get the right care to resolve the problems you face. You go to your medical provider, and you make sure that your provider diagnoses the issue. The provider sends out the findings to get lab results or the opinion of other medical teams, too.
The problem occurs when paperwork gets mixed up or when the wrong diagnosis is made based on the evidence. A patient could then go through an unnecessary treatment or a treatment that doesn't resolve the problems they're dealing with.
Is it common to be misdiagnosed in the emergency room?
To a degree, yes, because these providers have little or no background health history on the patients. Even if they gather information after a physical exam and tests, there's a potential to misdiagnose the patient. In some cases, illnesses or conditions flare only temporarily, giving the ER doctors and nurses a short timeline to perform tests. If they don't complete them during the health event, they could make a misdiagnosis or fail to see any problem at all.
What are some commonly misdiagnosed conditions?
It is common to misdiagnose heart attacks in women, for one example. Women often have different symptoms than men, making it harder to identify when they're having a heart attack. Women may have pain in the neck or jaw instead of down the left arm, for example.
Pulmonary embolisms may also be misdiagnosed easily. Why? They present in the same way as pulled muscles, asthma attacks and panic attacks. Unless the right tests are ordered, it could be difficult for a provider to make the correct diagnosis. Even with the right tests, it may be possible to miss the blood clots if they are small or in an odd position.
Misreading X-rays is one serious issue in hospitals and doctors' offices
It is somewhat easy to misread an X-ray. One doctor may, for instance, say a patient does not have a broken bone, but upon further study discover that they do. Misreading X-rays can lead to numerous kinds of misdiagnoses, some of which can cause lasting damage or put the patient's life in jeopardy.
As a patient, the best thing you can do is to seek a second opinion when you get a diagnosis. Having two professionals review the documents and data is always a better choice than relying on just one.