It wasn’t until the 1990s that a growing body of medical research began to conclusively confirm that heart attack tends to present differently in women than it does in men. This understanding has allowed the medical community to diagnose heart attacks in women more effectively and has allowed women to advocate for themselves more successfully.
Hopefully, the knowledge gained by the release of a December 2022 study released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will result in similar positive impacts. Although the study’s conclusions are deeply disturbing, clarifying the truth and addressing it head-on will hopefully benefit millions of patients down the road.
What does the study say?
Researchers from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University conducted the study under a contract with the agency. After analyzing studies published over the course of two decades, the researchers determined that of the 130 million trips to emergency departments made each ear in the U.S., approximately 7.4 million people are misdiagnosed. The researchers also estimate that roughly 370,000 patients annually suffer serious harm due to emergency room diagnosis errors. As many as 250,000 patients suffer fatal harm due to serious diagnostic mistakes made by emergency room departments.
Researchers determined that misdiagnosis errors are often made when patients don’t experience a typical presentation for a specific condition. Just as heart attack tends to present differently in women, serious conditions don’t always present in the same ways in every unique human body.
The study concludes that five serious conditions account for nearly two out of every five serious misdiagnosis-related harm. These five conditions, which all may have atypical presentations, are:
- Aortic aneurysm/dissection
- Myocardial infarction
- Spinal cord compression and other spinal injuries
- Venous thromboembolism
Understanding that these conditions are commonly misdiagnosed by emergency department professionals can help you to advocate successfully on your own behalf in the event of an atypical presentation. This understanding can also empower you to learn more about your legal rights in the event that you or a loved one suffers harm due to misdiagnosis.