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Worcester Medical Malpractice Law Blog

The role of biases in medical diagnosing

Studies have found that medical errors trail only heart disease and cancer as a leading cause of death around the country. Massachusetts residents seeking medical care should be aware that a doctor's bias about a patient can result in a misdiagnosis. This is a trend that is likely to continue unless biases are closely examined.

In a study that was published in Perspectives on Medical Education, researchers assert that general practitioners have to experience the consequences of making a misdiagnosis based on their bias before they can fully comprehend the impact that bias has. Researchers tried to develop a workshop that would decrease the chances of biases negatively affecting a medical diagnosis. The workshop was conducted on the theory that simply informing students about biases was insufficient. In order to be effective, medical students had to experience the results of bias in an environment that allowed them to make errors without suffering severe consequences.

Understanding cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a medical condition that stems from either a developing brain that sustains damage or the abnormal development of a brain. A child who has cerebral palsy has difficulty controlling his or her muscles. The brain damage related to cerebral palsy can occur before a child is born and as far as during the few years a child's life. Massachusetts residents who are parents of very young children or those who are soon to be parents should be aware of the causes and factors related to the occurrence of this affliction.

Congenital cerebral palsy, which is caused by brain damage that occurs before or during birth, accounts for the vast majority of cases. Some of the risk factors of congenital CP include multiple births, infections during pregnancy, birth weights of less than 5.5 pounds, births that occur before the 37th week of pregnancy and pregnancies that resulted from the use of some forms of infertility treatment. A mother with certain medical issues and dangerous birth complications can also result in cerebral palsy.

Few options available for diagnosing ovarian cancer

Some Massachusetts women may be interested to learn that according to the FDA, a popular test that screens for ovarian cancer may not be effective. The disease is difficult to diagnose, and a test that is often used to help confirm such a diagnosis, called the cancer antigen 125, may be inaccurate.

The test measures levels of a blood protein that can indicate ovarian cancer. However, elevated levels can also be caused by a variety of other conditions including fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis and even menstruation. One problem is that women might undergo unnecessary invasive testing because of inaccurate results. Another is that those other conditions will go misdiagnosed. A more dangerous problem is that women who do have ovarian cancer might not be diagnosed. The FDA has urged physicians to use tests like transvaginal ultrasounds to look for signs of cancer in women and to refer women to an oncologist or genetic counselor who can examine gene mutations. The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition agrees that the CA125 test is simply not accurate enough.

Hospital administrators can assist with preventing misdiagnoses

Massachusetts patients may be interested in learning that approximately 1 in 20 individuals is misdiagnosed in U.S. hospitals every year. A misdiagnosis can potentially lead to serious complications or even death. However, there are ways that hospital administrators can assist with preventing potential misdiagnoses.

One of the main causes of a misdiagnosis is poor communication. In some cases, the patient or even the medical staff do not ask questions regarding a diagnosis for the illness or chronic pain due to discomfort or shame. Some medical staff also do not report mistakes. Doctors and surgeons should be properly trained to listen to their patients. This may potentially allow them to catch medical mistakes before they happen. Listening skills may potentially be improved through training programs.

Asthma and the problem of misdiagnosis

Massachusetts residents may be interested to know that a large percentage of patients are misdiagnosed before they are determined to have asthma. According to the study by Health Union, 25.7 million people in the U.S. are living with this condition but many are not properly diagnosed earlier.

For those who are diagnosed with asthma, 89 percent are prescribed rescue inhalers. Nearly one-third of people who are diagnosed had delayed diagnoses during a series of tests or were originally misdiagnosed with different conditions.

The treatment of rare diseases

Some residents of Massachusetts may be among the 25 to 30 million Americans who have a rare disease. In the U.S., any disease that affects less than 200,000 people is considered "rare." There are about 6,000 known rare diseases in the world, and the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions can be difficult.

In order to find effective treatments for rare diseases, new drugs are constantly being developed. Orphan drugs, which are medicines that are not yet being commercially developed but are in testing, are often the best hope for treating rare diseases. Since the Orphan Drug Act was passed in the U. S. in 1983, the FDA has approved more than 500 drugs that were classified as orphan drugs.

What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?

Massachusetts readers may have a little-known connective tissue disorder and not even realize it. The condition, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, could affect as many as one in every 500 Americans, but it is frequently misdiagnosed, leading to ineffective treatments and chronic health issues.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a heritable group of genetic connective tissue conditions that change the way the body produces and processes collagen. Collagen, which makes up around 30 percent of the body, is found in skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, cartilage, muscles and even the brain. Symptoms of the syndrome, which may seem random, include stretchy skin, overly flexible joints and wounds that are slow to heal.

Protein could lead to more accurate mesothelioma diagnoses

Researchers have identified a protein that could help oncologists differentiate mesothelioma from lung cancer. The breakthrough, which was published in the journal Oncotarget in July, could lead to faster diagnoses and better treatments for mesothelioma patients in Massachusetts and nationwide.

A research team at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center discovered that people who lack a protein known as BAP1 are more likely to develop malignant mesothelioma. For the study, the scientists analyzed 45 non-small cell lung cancer samples and 35 pleural mesothelioma samples. All 45 lung cancer samples tested positive for normal BAP1 expression, but more than half of the mesothelioma samples did not have BAP1. The discovery is expected to accelerate the diagnostic process for the disease and reduce cases of misdiagnosis.

Studies look at misdiagnosed Alzheimer's cases

Massachusetts residents might wish to know about the studies that could reduce misdiagnosis in people with Alzheimer's. One study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that men tend to be misdiagnosed more than women.

This study looked at more than 1,600 brains of Alzheimer's patients who were between the ages of 37-102. Women tended to develop the disease in their 70s and onward while men had more aggressive forms of Alzheimer's that began in their 60s. Men are more often misdiagnosed because their symptoms involve different areas of the brain. Men frequently experience behavioral changes, motor control problems or language difficulty in addition to the typical memory loss symptoms.

Painful bladder syndrome often misdiagnosed

Interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome, is a condition that affects many Massachusetts patients. People with this condition experience pain in their pelvis as well as the frequent urge to urinate both day and night. The condition affects both men and women, but it is more common in women.

Because there is little known about interstitial cystitis, patients with this condition are often misdiagnosed when they visit the doctor and explain their symptoms. Patients with interstitial cystitis may be told that they have an overactive bladder or an infection in their urinary tract. After patients with interstitial cystitis are misdiagnosed and given the wrong medications, they are sometimes told that their continued symptoms are all in their head.

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