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Worcester Medical Malpractice Law Blog

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.

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.

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