Many People With Serious Medical Conditions Are Initially Misdiagnosed: Study


Diagnostic errors are no laughing matter as they may lead to serious threats to the life of the patient. A new study suggests that most patients, analyzed with serious health issues, are initially misdiagnosed.

The study, conducted by the researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, reveals that most patients who went for a second opinion saw a change in the results of their original diagnosis.

The Mayo Clinic Study: Are People Misdiagnosed?

For the study, the researchers reviewed reports of 286 patients who visited primary health care providers from 2009 to 2010.

Only 12 percent of those who went for the second round of diagnosis at the Mayo Clinic were found to have been given the correct diagnosis at the first instance. By comparison, 66 percent had a marginally altered diagnosis, whereas a fifth were told they suffered from a different medical condition.

The study shared that roughly 21 percent, or 62 cases, showed that the second diagnosis report was "distinctly different" from the initial one. Nearly 12 percent, or 36 cases, had the same diagnosis as the initial assessment.

In the remaining 188 cases, the diagnosis reflected that the first assessment was partly correct, but it became refined during the second analysis.

Misdiagnosis: Is It Common?

According to a 2015 report from the National Academy of Medicine, maximum individuals will get a late or incorrect diagnosis at some juncture in their lives. Occasionally, this may lead to serious consequences.

The report gave the example of an estimate where nearly 12 million, or 5 percent adults, who sought outpatient care, were diagnosed incorrectly each year.

In 2016, a study published by the John Hopkins University noted that wrong diagnosis, or medical error, was the third leading cause of death in the United States each year, behind only cancer and cardiac diseases.

Is It Important To Get A Second Opinion?

James M. Naessens, a professor at the Mayo Clinic, who led the new study, feels that diagnostic error is an area which requires more research.

"The second opinion is a good approach for certain patients to figure out what's there and to keep costs down," noted Naessens.

For a patient diagnosed with deadly diseases like cancer or other ailments, which may require surgery, one must always stay safe side and opt for a second diagnosis.

"Diagnosis is extremely hard. There are 10,000 diseases and only 200 to 300 symptoms," shared Mark L. Graber, a senior fellow at the research institute RTI International and founder of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine.

Graber, who was not involved in the current study, added that even doctors are human and can make mistakes like everybody else.

The study's results have been published in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice.

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