How common is medical misdiagnosis?

If you have worrying symptoms that your doctor continually brushes off, you may wonder if your doctor could be wrong and if your condition is more serious than he or she realizes. If you have any doubts at all, the best thing you can do for your long-term health and peace of mind is to obtain a second opinion.

Sadly, misdiagnosis is one of the most frequently occurring medical errors. According to Medical News Today, diagnostic errors often result in severe harm or even death.

The toll of diagnostic mistakes

Though the numbers remain unclear, findings from a study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine guestimate that between 40,000 and 80,000 deaths occur in the United States each year, in whole or in part, because of misdiagnoses. U.S. hospitals report that misdiagnosis is the cause of between 80,000 and 160,000 cases of serious harm to individuals’ health each year.

Commonly misdiagnosed conditions

There are over 10,000 documented diseases, many of which manifest in the same ways. This fact alone makes diagnostic issues difficult to tackle. However, in an attempt to reduce the number of diagnostic mistakes, researchers grouped diagnostic codes together to identify the most common harms resulting from errors. In doing so, they found that a surprisingly small number of conditions were related to the most egregious errors. In fact, just three conditions accounted for nearly three-quarters of all serious injuries related to misdiagnosis. Researchers dubbed these conditions the “Big Three.”

According to the findings, cancer misdiagnoses account for over one-third of all medical errors that result in permanent disability or death. Vascular issues account for 22%, and infections 13.5%. Upon further dissection, researchers found that 15 specific conditions within the big three account for serious harm due to misdiagnosis. Among those include stroke, lung cancer, sepsis, meningitis, heart attacks, blood clots, pneumonia, and cancers of the breast, skin and prostate.