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Worcester Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Penicillin allergies may be misdiagnosed too frequently

Massachusetts residents who have been told that they are allergic to penicillin may actually be able to tolerate the drug. According to a study presented at a meeting held at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 90 percent of those diagnosed with such an allergy no longer have it. They may have either grown out of it or were misdiagnosed with the condition.

One doctor says that 25 million to 50 million Americans may believe that they have a penicillin allergy when they really don't. This doctor says that children may get an infection and then experience a rash or some other side effect while using penicillin. This may cause a doctor to incorrectly conclude that an allergy is present. Fortunately, it may be easy to determine if a person still has the allergy by giving him or her a low dose of the antibiotic.

Heart surgery heater-cooler units blamed for lung infections

Massachusetts hospitals and their patients should be aware that a global outbreak of an invasive, slow-growing bacterium has been linked to heater-cooler devices used during heart surgeries, according to a study led by a Swiss physician. The research was published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

HCDs are stand-alone devices that provide heat exchange in heart-lung machines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the units are used in approximately 250,000 American surgeries each year. Following an increase in infections, the authors of the study found Mycobacterium chimaera in the water circuits of LivaNova 3T HCDs, which are used in the majority of hospitals around the world. The bacteria was also present in air samples taken by researchers during surgeries using LivaNova HCDs. This means patients could be infected through air particles.

Cellulitis misdiagnosis and malpractice claims

Massachusetts patients may be interested to know about a common infection that results in over 2.3 million emergency room visits every year. This infection is cellulitis. It is caused when certain bacteria enter the skin through a cut or other wound. The skin becomes red, swollen and warm to the touch. It may also blister and become painful. As with most infections, it can spread or become more serious if left untreated.

Antibiotics are the most common treatment for cellulitis. The problem is that cellulitis has similarities to a wide variety of skin conditions not caused by bacteria. The common method of diagnosis is a physical examination and medical history rather than a more definitive blood test or culture. This makes the disease difficult for doctors to accurately diagnose. In a recent study of emergency room patients, over 30 percent received a misdiagnosis of cellulitis. Researchers indicate that a dermatologist is more likely to accurately diagnose the condition, but the vast majority of patients do not have access to such a specialist.

Misdiagnosis possibilities with genetic testing

Because some diseases are linked to specific genes, Massachusetts health care providers might recommend that family members of a patient be tested in certain situations. However, there can also be situations in which the information provided by genetic screening can be misread. The potential for misdiagnosis exists, which means that providers may need to use more than just a positive genetic test to diagnose a patient with a specific condition.

A situation involving the sudden death of a 13-year-old boy illustrates the need for caution with genetic testing. The family of the boy sought understanding after his heart failed, and numerous relatives went through testing to evaluate possible links to heart conditions. The results pointed to several individuals having the potential for long QT syndrome, a condition related to fatal heart rhythms. In fact, the boy's brother tested positive and was implanted with a defibrillator as a precaution. The family later obtained a second opinion in which the doctor did not detect signs of the disease. A molecular autopsy of the deceased boy later showed that he had another condition but did not have genetic markers for long QT syndrome.

New breast cancer treatments could replace chemotherapy

Chemotherapy treatment is often prescribed for Massachusetts women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. While chemotherapy may kill some of a patient's cancer cells, it will simultaneously kill other healthy cells in the patient's body. Known for causing hair loss and loss of bone marrow, chemotherapy is a toxic treatment for cancer that may soon be replaced with safer alternatives.

A combination of two new cancer treatment drugs, Herceptin and Tykerb, has been proven to completely destroy all breast cancer cells in some patients. Researchers conducted a study using 257 female patients with HER2-positive and found that 11 percent of the patients were cured after taking the Herceptin-Tykerb drug combination orally for 11 days. While the new drug treatment did not destroy cancer in all of the patients, many people believe that the results of the study are promising.

Cause and treatment of brachial plexus injuries

In some cases, babies born in hospitals in Massachusetts and around the country may be at risk for neonatal brachial plexus palsy. This is a condition where the newborn experiences weakness or a loss of movement in the brachical plexus nerves around the shoulder. Causes of this particular injury include the shoulders being stretched during a head first delivery or when the baby's neck or head gets pulled to the side during delivery.

Brachial plexus palsy is the more common type of injury, and it effects the infant's upper arm. However, it is possible that the baby could suffer from Klumpke paralysis, which involves the lower portion of the shoulder as well as the hand. This type of injury is less common today because a C-section is generally called for when a traditional delivery may be difficult. It is important to note that a C-section does not eliminate the risk entirely.

Patient has healthy kidney removed in hospital error

A Massachusetts hospital faces losing its Medicaid and Medicare funding after a physician removed a kidney from the wrong patient. The facility has until Dec. 12 to fix the deficiencies found by an investigative team in order to maintain the funding.

The incident occurred on July 20 when the hospital mixed up two patients with the same name. Surgeons realized that they had made a mistake when they did not see a large tumor on the kidney, and they had it analyzed by the hospital's pathology department after removal to confirm that it was healthy.

Device used in open-heart surgery may cause infections

Patients in Massachusetts that require open-heart surgery may be at risk for infection during the operation. On Oct. 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning about infections caused by a medical device that is used in these procedures. At least 11 patients in the U.S. and more patients abroad may have contracted infections from the heater-cooler device during open-heart surgery.

The heater-cooler device is an artificial heart valve that is used to keep a patient's blood at the right temperature during open-heart surgery. Some patients require valves and other products to be implanted in their bodies during the procedure. According to an infectious disease specialist from Switzerland, the heater-cooler unit is not airtight, and mycobacteria floating around in an operating room can fall onto the artificial heart valve before it is implanted in a patient.

When to seek a second medical opinion

Being diagnosed with an unexpected illness can cause a shock, and a patient may want to confirm it diagnosis. Massachusetts residents should be aware that there are certain times during a second opinion should be obtained.

If a patient has been diagnosed with a grave or possibly terminal illness, another opinion is necessary in order to ensure that he or she receives the best course of treatment. Research should be conducted and all options explored before deciding on a treatment plan. This will entail consulting health care professionals other than a doctor with whom the patient may have a long-term relationship. Other doctors may be aware of and able to perform better plans of treatment that the patient's doctor is not.

Educating patients about medical recalls

If a medical device is defective or could pose a risk to public safety in Massachusetts, a recall may be issued for that device. However, this does not mean that the device must be returned to the manufacturer. In some cases, it simply means that it needs to be adjusted or otherwise repaired. If the device is physically inserted into a patient, it may not need to be removed.

Instead, the company that makes the device will tell doctors to consult with their patients. From there, the doctor and patient can discuss the matter and determine whether it is safer to leave that device in the patient as opposed to removing it. A recall may be issued either by the FDA or voluntarily by the company that makes the product. In the event that a company cannot predict which of its products may fail, it may recall several at once.

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