Misdiagnoses are dangerous medical mistakes that can be common in the healthcare industry. If a doctor fails to identify a specific illness or disease, this can lead to life-threatening consequences and potential fatalities in patients.
We’ve listed the three main conditions which doctors often misdiagnose.
What is a misdiagnosis?
Misdiagnosis refers to the act of a medical professional offering a diagnosis that is determined by the symptoms they have identified and the tests they have performed, but the diagnosis is actually incorrect.
It can also mean that a professional has missed the diagnosis entirely, telling a patient they are fine when they actually have an illness or medical condition. Misdiagnosis is costly and can often lead to claims for compensation.
A study carried out by the University of Manchester found that more than half (58%) of diagnostic errors in general practice happen during GP consultations.
Cancer is known as the most common misdiagnosis, particularly lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer.
As cancer symptoms often share many similarities with various other diseases and conditions, cancer can be difficult to diagnose. It typically depends on the type of cancer that the doctor is trying to diagnose.
For example, lung cancer can often be mistaken for conditions such as asthma, pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Cancer can become aggressive quickly, making it even harder to treat once it has reached a certain stage. That’s why receiving the correct diagnosis for this illness is extremely important.
The term ‘vascular’ refers to your veins and arteries. Vascular events that are typically misdiagnosed are heart attacks, strokes, brain haemorrhages and pulmonary embolisms.
These types of events can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms are either non-specific, temporary or unknown. They also have various factors that are understudied – for instance, studies suggest that men are more likely to suffer heart attacks than women, making the symptoms for this particular event in women less recognisable.
The warning signs of a stroke can vary and are often mistaken for other illnesses. Patients may report that they feel dizzy, confused and are struggling to speak clearly, which can be symptoms of a migraine or vertigo.
The most commonly misdiagnosed infections are sepsis, meningitis and encephalitis.
Sepsis can be triggered by existing infections, such as UTIs. Sepsis is primarily caused by the body’s extreme immune response to these infections, and this response can be fatal. It can be a complicated condition to treat and therefore requires a fast diagnosis.
The initial symptoms of meningitis are similar to common illnesses, such as the flu. These symptoms can include high temperature, severe headaches and drowsiness, so can be easily mistaken for other conditions.