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Austin Medical Malpractice Blog

Wrong-site surgical errors can be catastrophic

Texas residents who have to undergo some form of surgery should be aware that wrong-site, wrong-procedure and wrong-patient errors, or WSPEs, can occur. Individuals who are victims of such medical errors could have legal recourse.

A wrong-site surgery can include operations that are conducted on the wrong side of the body or body part. For example, a more common occurrence among neurosurgeons is performing surgery on the incorrect level of the spine.

One misdiagnosis reveals importance of second opinions

You have likely heard of people wanting to receive a second opinion when they are doubtful about a first diagnosis. Wanting a second opinion does not mean you are distrustful of the first doctor, it simply means you want to get the full picture of your medical condition and want as much professional input as possible. One woman from Nebraska learned the importance of a second opinion the hard way when she discovered she had cerebrospinal fluid leaking from her brain over the course of several years. 

After a car accident, the woman experienced a chronic runny nose accompanied by headaches. The doctor she went to initially diagnosed it as simple allergies. She lost approximately eight ounces of cerebral fluid a day for several years, but fortunately, she was able to get the diagnosis she needed and is currently recovering. 

Study reveals "diagnostic odyssey" of mitochondrial patients

Mitochondrial diseases can affect almost any part of the body, and their wide range of symptoms can make it all too easy for doctors to misdiagnose them. Most primary care physicians also have little familiarity with these (comparatively rare) diseases. Patients in Texas who suffer, or believe they suffer, from a mitochondrial disease should know about a study detailing the "diagnostic odyssey" that many people in their situation go through.

In the study, which was conducted by Columbia University Irving Medical Center, scientists had 210 patients with self-reported mitochondrial disease answer a 25-item questionnaire. The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation helped the university researchers become familiar with the patients' perspective.

New tool aims to keep patients safe

Three companies have merged their expertise together to create a tool called InTouch Surgical. The goal is to prevent Texas residents and others from being the victim of a serious medical error. The first company is called InTouch Health, and it provides telemedicine services. It is joined by startup SafeStart Medical that aims to prevent "never events" such as wrong-site surgeries. According to SafeStart's CEO, 40 to 50 percent of serious errors begin when a surgeon and patient first meet.

The company says that improved communication can help to eliminate these errors from occurring. TapCloud was the final company that helped to create InTouch Surgical. It offers patients advice and information prior to a surgery and helps to engage them when they aren't in a hospital or other clinical setting. The product that the three companies combined to create is designed to function as a patient management tool.

App-assisted diagnostics have potential to reduce misdiagnoses

People in Texas routinely look to mobile applications to help them navigate streets, find dates or buy show tickets. However, many are unaware of the benefits that health apps can have on patient care. An app called PTT Advisor recently received a favorable evaluation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and university researchers. Testing showed that the app improved the accuracy of diagnoses for coagulation and bleeding disorders by 13 percent.

These diseases frequently challenge physicians. However, the app helped doctors select the right tests for patients, which improved diagnostic decisions. The researchers compared the app to traditional disease research methods such as searching the internet and reference books. Physicians from seven institutions participated in the study. Researchers presented them with eight scenarios based on real clinical cases that had proven difficult to diagnose. The physicians used the app while evaluating four cases and their usual methods for the other four cases.

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.

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