Misdiagnosis from doctors can cause severe harm

Each year in the US, roughly 12 million adults are misdiagnosed, according to a study in the Journal BMJ Quality and Safety, which is about one out of 20 adult patients. Researchers say in half of those cases the misdiagnosis could cause you severe harm.

When 25-year-old Chelsey Gabrielson was first told that her tremors and slurred speech were nothing more than anxiety and depression, she knew in her heart it was more.

"I have been to so many doctors and have been treated, in my opinion, poorly," said Gabrielson.

It took more than seven years of being misdiagnosed before Gabrielson learned she had a rare neurological disease, called Moyamoya. The disease affects blood flow to the brain which can cause brain damage and unfortunately, stories like hers happen in hospitals and clinics every day.

"Don’t be afraid to go get a second opinion," said Dr. Benjamin Brown, a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.

Doctor Benjamin Brown is the neurosurgeon now treating Gabrielson. He advises patients who aren’t getting answers to keep a hard copy of all of their medical records and to not rely on your doctor to pass them along.

"It happens sometimes but it’s very difficult for hospitals to reliably communicate with each other," said Dr. Brown.

If your doctor uses electronic medical records, you can even ask for a copy of their notes. One study found that rushed doctors are one of the main causes of being misdiagnosed, so make a written list of your symptoms and concerns to make your visit efficient.

But Gabrielson and her family say, the best thing you can do is trust your instincts and don’t give up on your own health care.

One study showed that the symptoms doctors most frequently miss or misdiagnosed that turned out to be more serious were cough, abdominal pain and shortness of breath.

MISDIAGNOSED: TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR HEALTH
REPORT #2347

BACKGROUND: Moyamoya disease is a rare yet very serious cerebrovascular disease caused by blocked arteries located in an area at the base of the brain known as the basal ganglia. Moyamoya means “puff of smoke” in Japanese, which accurately describes the tangled appearance of the tiny vessels making their way to the brain. This disorder is progressive which means that the symptoms will only worsen over time causing the patient to be more succeptible to having a stroke. The only proven form of treatment for this disease is surgery, as it helps to restore bloodflow to the brain. As of right now, the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville is one of the few places with enough expertise on how to treat Moyamoya because their doctors invented a highly effective form of surgery called pial synangiosis. The procedure opens the arachnoids and removes a barrier to the ingrowth of new blood cells in the brain.

(Source: http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/moyamoya-disease)

SYMPTOMS AND PROGNOSIS:

* Slurred speech
* Headaches
* Weakness on one side of the body
* Seizures

Prognosis: If a patient with Moyamoya doesn’t get surgery, then they will begin to experience mental decline and strokes. Also if the patient doesn’t undergo any treatment then Moyamoya can become fatal as a result of bleeding in the brain.
(Source: http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/moyamoya-disease/symptoms-and-causes )

COMMON MISDIAGNOSED DISEASES: Diagnostic errors in medicine are common. A recent study has shown that they affect up to 12 million people, which is equivalent to one out of every 20 American adults.The most common misdiagnosed conditons include cancer, heart attacks, depression, celiac disease, strokes, lyme disease, thyroid conditions and pulmonary embolisms. There are dangers to medical misdiagnoses because the state of the condition can generally get worse. As for cancer, misdiagnoses can occur as often as 28 percent of the time. Reasons for medical misdiagnoses include missing information, not enough time for a patient evaluation, and incomplete medical history. Additionally, other serious medical conditions such as heart attacks are also difficult to diagnose given that people of different ages don’t always show the same symptoms. According to a 2014 study, women are more likely to be misdiagnosed for heart attacks because they don’t tend to feel any chest pain; which is one of the classic heart attack symptoms.

(Source: http://www.everydayhealth.com/pictures/commonly-misdiagnosed-conditions/ )

For More Information, Contact:

Paul Scotti
Scotti.Paul@mayo.edu