FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2013-01-11
For many, having a loved one needing to visit the intensive care unit in one of the nation’s hospitals is a very terrifying experience. Due to the need for fast medical decisions, it requires the family and the patient to trust his or her physician to correctly determine the medical problem and apply the correct treatment. Although the diagnosis and treatment of the patient’s condition is often correct, according to a recent study, a misdiagnosis in the ICU has been a factor in the death of up to a quarter of patients.
For the study, which was recently published in BMJ Quality and Safety, researchers from Johns Hopkins analyzed 31 earlier studies that were conducted from 1966 to 2011. From the earlier studies, they concluded that about 28 percent of the patients who died in ICUs had a misdiagnosis when they died. Within this 28 percent, the study found that the misdiagnosis was the cause of death for eight percent of the patients.
Applying their conclusions, researchers found that major diagnosis failure is responsible for the deaths of as many as 40,500 patients out of the total 540,000 ICU-related deaths each year. According to the study, the most common conditions that were misdiagnosed were heart attack, pneumonia, stroke and fungal infections.
Even more alarming, the study found that the rate of misdiagnosis was about 50 percent higher in the ICU than in the hospital’s general population. This is especially troubling because patients in ICUs undergo more rigorous monitoring, testing and examinations than patients in other areas of the hospital, yet are still more likely to be misdiagnosed.
As there has been little funding for research into this area, the reasons behind the heightened rate of ICU misdiagnoses baffles experts. However, the study’s researchers speculated that that the increased rate could be a result of the harried nature of the ICU. Medical professionals who work in ICUs are constantly bombarded with information about the patient’s condition, which ironically can lead them to miss the signs of a deadly medical condition.
Consult an attorney
Regardless of the reasons for the heightened risk of misdiagnoses in our nation’s ICUs, patients are entitled under the law to receive a minimum standard of care. In many cases, a physician’s failure to make a correct diagnosis constitutes medical malpractice.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a misdiagnosis, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. An attorney can investigate the circumstances surrounding this incident and advise you on your right to recover compensation.