Misdiagnosis or Missed Diagnosis, How Common Is It?

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If you are having trouble getting an answer to your symptoms, or are finding that your treatment isn’t working the way it should, you may wonder if it’s possible you have been misdiagnosed or whether your diagnosis is being missed altogether. Misdiagnosis and missed diagnoses may be more common than you might realize.


misdiagnosis describes a situation when your physician tells you that you have some illness, but it’s incorrect. For example, a he might diagnosed the abdominal pain, but the patient really has peptic ulcer disease.

After she had a breast lump excision and histology done, she was not inform to return for a review of histology investigation.  It was when another issues developed before the result of the histology was reviewed but its was too late… She had cancer of the breast, we lost her months later.

Or a too-common missed diagnosis is the experience of a woman who is sent to a gastroenterologist for stomach symptoms, but her real problem is ovarian cancer, which requires a gynecologist.

In some cases, it makes no difference that a patient’s diagnosis is incorrect, because the medical problem will run its course, probably heal, and the fact that it was a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis will be a moot point.

In other cases, the diagnosis is so different from the reality of the person’s medical problem that the resulting wrong treatment, or missed treatment, can cause death or debilitation.

Prevalence of Misdiagnoses and Missed Diagnoses

The actual percentages of misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses vs correct, accurate diagnoses, are difficult to determine, although experts put the rate at around 5% for outpatients. Missed and misdiagnoses are rarely reported because there is no real mechanism for reporting them.

If the patient dies, the family may request an autopsy, but autopsies are expensive and unless the information can be put to good use, they won’t be recommended by the professionals.

Even if we don’t know the actual statistics, a rate of 5% is remarkable and frightening. Think about it this way: Of your last 20 doctor visits that resulted in a diagnosis, no matter what that diagnosis, it’s possible that one of them was wrong.

Or think about it another way: Within your workplace, or neighborhood, or a club or group you belong to, of 20 of your friends who were diagnosed with something—anything—one of them was given the wrong answer about their symptoms.

Missed and misdiagnoses can happen to anyone—and they do. How Doctors Think, after being misdiagnosed many times?

Many  has been misdiagnosed over and over again before finally learning what their medical problems were and what treatment would actually work. Those were among the lucky ones because eventually, they did get the right diagnosis.

What Can You Do?

If you continue to experience symptoms even though you are being treated for a medical conditions, or if you have a hunch your diagnosis is not correct, you owe it to yourself to explore alternatives for figuring out what might be your real diagnosis.

Begin by using the system doctors use, called differential diagnosis. Then ask your primary care doctor to refer you to whatever specialist might take care of the body system or disease state that your differential diagnosis process would suggest.
Missed and misdiagnoses are common enough that they may be the reason you can’t get the answers or treatment you need. You owe it to yourself to look at other options.


Also Read: When a Patient Can’t Get a Diagnosis

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