The Daily

Misdiagnoses lead to 250,000 ER patients’ deaths annually, U.S. study finds

There was a New England Journal of Medicine article decades ago that found that if emergency room patients didn’t list their complaints in the right order and in time – they wouldn’t be heard or recorded properly.

Originally reported in the New York Times, this study is getting wide attention.

“The study, released [Dec. 15] by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, estimates roughly 7.4 million people are inaccurately diagnosed of the 130 million annual visits to hospital emergency departments in the United States. Some 370,000 patients may suffer serious harm as a result. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, under a contract with the agency, analyzed data from two decades’ worth of studies to quantify the rate of diagnostic errors in the emergency room and identify serious conditions where doctors are most likely to make a mistake. Many of the studies were based on incidents in European countries and Canada, leading some officials of U.S. medical organizations to criticize the researchers’ conclusions.

While these errors remain relatively rare, they are most likely to occur when someone presents with symptoms that are not typical, like stroke patients complaining the room is spinning. A doctor may not immediately think that a young woman with shortness of breath is having a heart attack or that someone who has back pain could have a spinal abscess. ‘This is the elephant in the room no one is paying attention to,’ said Dr. David E. Newman-Toker, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins University and director of its Armstrong Institute Center for Diagnostic Excellence, and one of the study’s authors.”

Here is a link to the story in JD Supra:

Misdiagnoses lead to 250,000 ER patients’ deaths annually, U.S. study finds