How common is a misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis?

February 15, 2023 | Crandall & Pera Law
How common is a misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis?

Ohio residents expect the highest level of professionalism from doctors. However, doctors are human and capable of making mistakes. Misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses can happen; this is how common they are.

Understanding misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses

A misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor incorrectly identifies a medical condition or illness in a patient. Often, this happens when a condition has symptoms that closely match those of a different ailment. For example, a person might see a doctor because they have a persistent cough and think they have pneumonia, but they later learn they have lung cancer. A missed diagnosis is when a doctor has not diagnosed a person at all. This is especially dangerous because it means there is no treatment involved when the individual might have a serious medical condition. In either situation, the patient can suffer harm or even death.

Misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses are surprisingly common

According to studies, misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses are more common than many think. One study looked at close to 300 people and found that over 20% were misdiagnosed and 66% were told their original diagnoses were incorrect. However, only 12% of those who sought second opinions were correctly diagnosed originally. These are scarily high numbers when you consider the high standards to which doctors are held. Certain groups of people are more likely to suffer a misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis. Women and people of color have as high as a 30% chance of being misdiagnosed. Conditions that are more likely to be misdiagnosed include multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, irritable bowel syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome and stroke. Cancer, heart attack, diabetes, appendicitis, pulmonary embolism and Parkinson’s disease are frequently involved in missed diagnoses. Depending on the condition, if not realized in time, a misdiagnosis or a missed diagnosis can have devastating results.