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Worcester Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Misdiagnosis of chronic Lyme disease can be deadly

If a Massachusetts resident is misdiagnosed with chronic Lyme disease, he or she could be prescribed treatment that could be dangerous. In fact, some patients have even died after they were given intensive and inappropriate antibiotics that resulted in septic shock.

Patients have been misdiagnosed with chronic Lyme disease for years. This is because the symptoms can vary widely and often include neurological symptoms, generalized pain and fatigue. However, the term "chronic Lyme disease" can be confusing as some physicians use it to describe symptoms that occur after the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which causes the infection, has been dealt with. Others use the term to describe patients who have similar symptoms even though there is no evidence they have been infected with the bacteria.

Study warns doctors about side effects of diabetes drug

Medical researchers at a Massachusetts hospital have identified a rare but potentially lethal side effect of a relatively new class of diabetes drugs. Available since 2013, SGLT2 inhibitors include the medications canagliflozin, dapagliflozin and empagliflozin. Their use sometimes causes patients to develop diabetic ketoacidosis, which inflicts shortness of breath, vomiting and brain swelling on victims and can be fatal.

The risk is higher for patients with type 1 diabetes who use this class of drugs, but the researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that SGLT2 inhibitors doubled the chance of developing ketoacidosis among people with type 2 diabetes. Because doctors might not be aware of the risks for type 2 diabetes patients, they might not monitor these patients for the serious complication.

Failures to diagnose collapsed lungs

Collapsed lungs can be very serious to people in Massachusetts and may result in serious injuries or deaths. When people who have this happen to them are not diagnosed properly, they or their families may have the grounds to file medical malpractice civil lawsuits against the doctors, medical staff and hospitals.

A collapsed lung may result from trauma, damaged lung tissue or air blebs that rupture on the outside of the lung. A lung collapse may involve a small area or a large leak. When a lung collapses, the patient will be unable to fully inhale and inflate it. It can cause chest pain and shortness of breath. If it is severe, it may cause the patient to go into shock, undergo cardiac arrest, experience low blood oxygen levels or suffer respiratory failure.

Risk factors for strokes

Each year, over 130,000 people in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the country die from strokes. This figure equates to strokes being responsible for 1 out of every 20 deaths in the U.S. annually.

Not all strokes are fatal, but they all have the potential to cause death or permanent disability. The risk factors commonly associated with strokes include high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, old age and high blood pressure. Certain heart ailments, such as heart valve disease and atrial fibrillation, may also contribute to a stroke.

How AIs may transform medical diagnoses

In the years ahead, Massachusetts patients may be increasingly diagnosed by artificial intelligence. In the United States, medical error is the third leading cause of death while in the United Kingdom's National Health Service, around one in six patients are incorrectly diagnosed. It is believed that AI can provide a more accurate diagnosis than doctors. However, even robots may not be infallible, and this may raise issues of liability and who will be responsible for an AI misdiagnosis.

Usually, a medical professional or facility is considered responsible for misdiagnoses and other errors, and AI is not supposed to completely replace the doctor in the diagnostic process. One problem is that it may be difficult for a doctor to discern how the AI arrived at any particular diagnosis. If the doctor is not responsible, the machine may be, but this raises both legal and philosophical questions, and software cannot be punished or fined.

Virtual second opinions growing in popularity

Massachusetts patients may suffer a number of consequences from a missed or delayed diagnosis including a reduced quality of life, higher medical expenses and unneeded treatment. According to a peer-reviewed medical journal, errors are not rare, with about 12 million outpatients experiencing misdiagnoses annually. However, telemedicine and telehealth services may provide people with greater opportunities to get second opinions, often from specialists, without having to travel long distances.

Typically, a primary care physician will first have a meeting with a patient over the internet. That doctor will put together any relevant information, including test results, write a summary, and forward it on to up to two or three specialists. Those specialists will review the information and write a recommendation for the patient.

Getting diagnosed with multiple sclerosis

According to a survey, patients in Massachusetts and across the country who suffer from multiple sclerosis have difficulty getting a proper diagnosis and finding treatment that is effective. In fact, approximately 50 percent of the more than 5,000 survey participants stated that it took five or more office visits before they were diagnosed.

Approximately 42 percent of the survey participants also reported that they were given incorrect diagnoses of other conditions, including migraine disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and depression. A patient advocate said that getting a correct diagnosis can be difficult for several reasons. For example, doctors may be inexperienced when it comes to diagnosing MS or patients may fail to mention symptoms as they may believe that they are not important.

Two different bowel conditions

The symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, are commonly misdiagnosed for inflammatory bowel syndrome, or IBS. Massachusetts patients who may be suffering from either one should be aware of exactly what the conditions are and how they differ.

IBD is an inflammatory condition of the intestines. Patients may have either Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, both of which cause the gastrointestinal tract to weaken. Crohn's disease can damage all parts of the gastrointestinal tract, including the mouth, throat, stomach, intestines, rectum and anus. Ulcerative colitis affects the lining of the colon over time and can result in sores and inflammation.

New test reveals likelihood of end-stage renal disease

Sufferers of type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at risk for developing a number of other very serious conditions, such as end-stage renal disease and chronic kidney disease. Diabetics in Massachusetts may be interested to know that a new test has been created that can pinpoint which diabetic patients are at risk.

In order to diagnose kidney failure in diabetics, doctors typically use two standard biomarker tests: the estimated glomerular filtration rate and albumin-to-creatinine ratio. The results of these tests are also how doctor choose patients to participate in clinical trials. However, these assessments could not be used to determine which patients were more likely to develop end-stage renal failure.

About patient safety in Massachusetts

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 750,000 patients around the country suffer from infections each year that resulted from the health care they received. Out of that amount, about 10 percent die during their time in a hospital.

Other patients are subject to various forms of malpractice, such as the administering of the wrong medications and errors during surgery. They also may fall while in the hospital, develop pressure ulcers, or be given the wrong type of treatment. Each year, in excess of 12 million patients are victims of diagnostic errors in the outpatient care they receive, about half of which result in harm. For Medicare beneficiaries who reside in skilled nursing facilities, one-third are harmed.

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