Medical Malpractice: Missed Diagnoses in the ICU

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It is difficult to conceive how many patients suffer injuries in hospitals and urgent care centers every year due to missed diagnoses. Critically ill patients in the intensive care unit, or ICU, are not immune to medical malpractice errors caused by physicians and staff. In fact, many medical errors in the ICU occur at the diagnostic level. According to physicians’ research in critical care medicine, more than twenty-five percent of patients who died in an ICU had at least one missed diagnosis. Researchers found that as many as 40,500 critically ill patients in the United States may die annually in an analysis of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The families of these victims of missed diagnoses are often left with heartache, grief, and the burden of covering hospital and funeral expenses. Attorney Jeff Badgley has witnessed this type of case many times before and is dedicated to recovering damages for medical malpractice victims. 

Most Common Missed Diagnoses in the ICU

Deaths from missed diagnoses often occur due to the physician’s or staff’s failure to diagnose severe medical conditions. Some life-threatening conditions include pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, and aspergillosis. ICU misdiagnosis of infections and vascular problems, such as heart attack and stroke, account for about three-fourths of the fatal errors. While patients in the intensive care unit are among the most monitored, tested, and examined patients in medical care, cases of medical misdiagnosis still occur. 

The Frequency of Missed Diagnoses is Higher in ICU Patients

The Hopkins study found that misdiagnosis in ICU patients was as much as 50 percent more common than that in general hospital patients. As hospital critical care units are renowned for their life-saving skills, there is increasing awareness of the preventable hazards in intensive care. For example, ICU wards pose a higher risk to patients from hospital-acquired infections or medication errors. However, many complications that occur in the intensive care setting are errors of omission. In cases of delayed diagnosis, earlier detections and treatment changes may have saved the patients’ lives. The lead author of the study, Dr. Bradford Winters, said the unexpectedly high frequency of misdiagnosis in hospital intensive care units was ”surprising and alarming.” The Hopkins researchers calculated that more than one in four patients had a missed diagnosis at the time of their death. Of these patients, the misdiagnosis was concluded to have caused or contributed to the patients’ deaths.

The Concern for Missed Diagnoses and Medical Malpractice

The ICU is known as a fast-paced, challenging environment. The physicians and nurses are overwhelmed with hundreds of tasks and responsibilities every day. This situation creates the potential for missing signs of severe medical conditions in a critically ill patient. Even though diagnostic errors in the ICU claim many lives every year, they are an underappreciated cause of preventable harm. The Hopkins study findings have highlighted the need for more research to identify the causes of misdiagnosis in the ICU, and to develop ways to assist doctors in assessing patients more accurately. It is also vital that victims of missed diagnoses seek the aid of a medical malpractice attorney to hold hospitals and physicians accountable. 

What to Do if You Have Been Misdiagnosed 

 If you or a loved one has suffered from a missed diagnosis in Florida, you may wish to seek the counsel of an experienced medical malpractice attorney. The Badgley Law Group is a client-focused Orlando law firm that helps victims of medical malpractice recover damages for medical bills, funeral expenses, and more. We bring experience and excellence to your legal matter, giving you the help you need when you need it. Call us for more information: (407)-487-4154.

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