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Misdiagnosis vs. missed diagnosis: What's the difference?

When an issue arises with your health, you may not always have the ability to determine what the problem could be. In some cases, you may have severe and concerning symptoms, and in other situations, you may simply feel off. In either case, you likely go to a medical professional in hopes of having your concerns heard and to receive a diagnosis.

While having trust in doctors and other medical professionals is important, it is also important to understand that these professionals do not always have all the answers and do not always provide the right answers. As a result, you could suffer from a serious medical condition, only to have your doctor brush off your concerns as a minor issue.

Misdiagnosis vs. missed diagnosis

While a misdiagnosis and a missed diagnosis may sound similar, the two terms refer to two different scenarios. If a misdiagnosis occurs, it means that your doctor or other medical care provider did diagnose you with an illness or condition, but the diagnosis was wrong. With a missed diagnosis, the medical care provider did not provide a diagnosis for your issue.

For an example of a missed diagnosis, if you are a woman and experience stomach pain, you may receive a referral to a gastroenterologist. That medical professional may not find any issue with your gastrointestinal tract and, as a result, not diagnose you with a condition. However, your pain may actually result from a serious condition like ovarian cancer, which needs a gynecologist for proper diagnosis.

Rate of occurrence

Though you may hope that your doctors or other medical professionals will diagnose your problems correctly every time, misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses are unfortunately common. In fact, reports indicate that this type of occurrence happens 40 percent of the time, which means you could have received the wrong or no diagnosis for a condition in four of your last 10 medical care visits.

Resulting issues

In some cases, a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis may not result in any lasting harm. Though you do not receive specific treatment for your actual ailment, it may resolve itself without issue or have other positive outcomes. However, in cases where serious conditions, like cancer, go undiagnosed, patients could suffer lasting harm or even die as a result.

If you or a loved one have experienced serious medical complications, a worsening condition or even death, it may be wise for you to explore your legal options. A medical malpractice claim may allow you to seek compensation for damages permitted under Tennessee state law.

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