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Austin Medical Malpractice Blog

Blood pressure medications increase risk of pancreatic cancer

Women in Texas and across the United States who have taken certain types of blood pressure medications may be at a greater risk of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The research, which came from the Women's Health Initiative, found that postmenopausal women who took short-acting calcium channel blockers, or CCB, increased their risk of pancreatic cancer by 66 percent. Women who took a long-acting CCB were found to have a 12 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

Different brand names of CCB medications include short-acting nifedipine, diltiazem, nicardipine, verapamil and isradipine. Women who took other types of blood pressure medications, such as beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and diuretics, were not found to have been at an increased risk.

Family history of brain aneurysms could create need for screening

A brain aneurysm can strike a person in Texas without warning. People with a strong family history of aneurysms occurring in first-degree relatives might meet the medical guidelines for screening. Magnetic resonance imaging with angiography or computed tomography with angiography have the potential to detect weakened vessels in the cranium. MRIs usually represent the first step while physicians reserve CTAs for more advanced diagnostics.

Medical guidelines recommend aneurysm screening for people with two or more close relatives known to have suffered a brain aneurysm. Screening should start when people are in their 20s. Medical researchers suspect that people might develop aneurysms at younger ages than their ancestors. Their aneurysms might burst at smaller sizes as well. Early detection of aneurysms creates opportunities for effective treatment. Every 5 or 10 years after the initial screening, people should get a new brain scan. Women with a family history of this medical problem face a heightened risk.

How surgical errors can alter your health and life

One expectation that many patients have is for their surgeons and physicians to inform them about mistakes that occur during before, during and after their procedures that may affect them. Surgical errors affect many people in Austin and across the country. Surgeons, physicians, nurses and other surgical health care professionals do not always disclose their negligent actions to patients, although the law require them to. 

The medical industry refers to surgical errors as never-events because they should not occur. Surgical mistakes often have profound consequences for patients. Besides the risk of infection, surgical complications, organ and brain damage, and other life- and health-altering complications, victims and their families are often left with substantial medical expenses. Here is a brief rundown on the dangers of surgical errors. 

Study highlights misdiagnoses among people with rare diseases

Texas residents afflicted with rare diseases often endure a lengthy diagnostic process that involves one or more incidents of misdiagnosis. A recent study conducted with support from the Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network looked at the diagnostic process for 210 patients with confirmed mitochondrial diseases. These diseases involve rare genetic disorders that impact mitochondria inside cells. These microscopic units generate 90 percent of the energy needed for organ function and life.

Questionnaire responses from the patients revealed a pattern of prolonged misdiagnoses that involved many tests. People visited an average of eight doctors before achieving an accurate diagnosis. Over half of respondents wrongly received diagnoses for conditions like psychiatric disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple sclerosis. Patients experienced multiple misdiagnoses in 32 percent of cases.

Data entry software can help reduce misdiagnoses

People in Texas may be worried about being the victim of a misdiagnosis or the failure to diagnose a progressive, serious illness like cancer when they go visit the doctor or enter a hospital for treatment. The consequences of a wrong diagnosis or a doctor error can be serious because the disease can progress and become deadly or difficult to treat in the interim. For health institutions concerned about patient care and liability, cutting down on the number of diagnostic errors can be a major priority.

When scanning for bone density, the use of data entry software in the radiology department can help prevent medical errors, especially in ultrasound and dual-energy X-ray (DEXA) radiology. The software can also help health facilities save time and money while reducing misdiagnoses. A study found that when the software is used, up to $1 million in radiologists' salaries can be saved over a five-year period. According to research that was carried out at the University of Colorado, 6 to 28 percent of all DEXA and ultrasound radiology reports contain data entry errors. While the errors may be simple or minor, they can lead to real problems, especially when they are included as part of an incorrect diagnosis of a patient's conditions.

Selecting a new diabetes treatment requires care

For people in Texas living with diabetes, the range of treatment options available can be confusing and surprising. Over 20 therapies for diabetes have been newly approved by the FDA since 2010, giving diabetes patients many more choices in how to treat the disorder. Pharmacists can help to play an important role in assisting both doctors and patients in selecting the right treatment and avoiding potentially dangerous interactions or costly prescriptions.

In a study published by the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, pharmacists highlighted the importance of patient safety when selecting diabetes treatments. There are over 30 million Americans with diabetes, and over 90 percent of diabetes care takes place outside the hospital. As treatment guidelines for diabetes are frequently updated, it is important for doctors to ensure that their diagnosis and treatment plans are correct.

Reducing the number of medication errors

Every year in Texas and across the U.S., more than 250,000 people die as a result of medication errors. Despite advances in technology that allow for digital record keeping, nurses and other health care professionals continue to make life-altering mistakes, most of which are preventable. Many errors are revealed in patients' charts and other documents.

The number one mistake is the failure to craft and enter information. For instance, nurses may fail to write down whether a patient suffers from allergies or some chronic health condition. Drug allergies are especially important to note. Many nurses also fail to take down the reactions that patients have to certain drugs. This means patients may not receive the proper care if a condition worsens.

Possible medical errors during gallbladder surgery

The purpose of the gallbladder is to store bile, but some people experience complications with the organ that necessitate its removal. Doctors can perform gallbladder surgery to reduce the risk of the patient developing pancreatitis, cholecystitis, choledocholithiasis and biliary dyskinesia. 

Most patients recognize they are candidates for gallbladder surgery when they experience bloating, nausea, fever or sharp pain in the abdomen. Most gallbladder surgeries go perfectly, and the patient is able to enjoy a much more comfortable quality of life. Complications are rare but can occur. Occasionally, these complications are a result of medical malpractice. It is important for patients about to undergo surgery to know the risks even if a skilled, experienced doctor will perform the procedure. 

Heart disease misdiagnosed in younger women

For some Texas heart attack patients, conservative treatment that involves allowing the body to heal by itself may be the most helpful course of action. This is especially true for spontaneous coronary artery dissection or SCAD, most frequently experienced by young women; in this type of heart attack, a sudden tear happens inside an artery, leading to the incident. This is unlike typical heart attacks, which occur due to the results of a lifetime of plaque building up in the arteries. Researching physicians said that treating the two types of heart attacks in the same way can be detrimental.

However, in order to determine the best course of response to a heart attack, a correct diagnosis is critical. SCAD was little understood until 2010; more recent research has indicated that on average, SCAD patients are women between the ages of 45 and 53, often with few other risk factors for heart disease. Doctors have noted that misdiagnosis and underdiagnosis of SCAD is a common occurrence, despite being the top cause of heart attacks among women under 50 as well as the primary cause of heart attacks during pregnancy and childbirth.

How dermatologists can prevent cellulitis misdiagnoses

Texas cellulitis patients should know about the findings of researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, as they may affect how cellulitis will be diagnosed in the future. Cellulitis is a bacterial skin condition that leads to red, swollen skin that's warm and tender to the touch. The only way to diagnose it is by looking at the skin and taking the patient's symptoms into account.

Moreover, the condition is often confused with pseudocellulitis, which mimics the symptoms of cellulitis. However, the researchers at BWH have published a study in JAMA Dermatology stating that early consultations with dermatologists can reduce the number of misdiagnoses. As part of their research, they took 165 patients diagnosed with presumptive cellulitis and had them speak to a dermatologist before entering the BWH Emergency Department. A third were found to have pseudocellulitis.

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