When a person experiences pain, that is a definitive signal that there is something wrong in the body, and it is an extremely useful indicator for physicians to diagnose particular problems and to determine the best route of medical care.
However, doctors can also misdiagnose pain, which can cause a misdiagnosis of the underlying condition, negatively affect a patient’s outcome, and cause additional medical complications.
If an incorrect diagnosis is made, the real cause for the pain may not be determined.
When pain is misdiagnosed and not properly treated, it can lead to disability and have a negative effect on a patient’s life, limiting his or her ability to participate in regular activities. It can also cause anxiety, depression, isolation, mood changes, and even lead to over-medicating.
Misdiagnosing chronic pain can lead to additional pain and further injury. If this is the case, you may be the victim of medical malpractice.
Why Are Chronic Pain Patients Misdiagnosed?
A group of researchers from Johns Hopkins reported anywhere from 40% to 80% of those who suffer from chronic pain are misdiagnosed. These medical errors are often caused by the medical provider failing to take thorough notes and get a detailed medical history from the patient, thus causing them to order the wrong tests.
Chronic pain is a constant pain that is experienced for longer than three to six-months. When a doctor is evaluating a patient who complains of chronic pain, he or she must follow through multiple processes in making sure that the correct diagnosis is made and the proper treatment is provided.
The first step for any physician dealing with a chronic pain patient is for the physician to learn about the origin of the pain. This can be done by evaluating the quality, duration, location, and severity of the pain, all of which can be highly useful indicators of the origin of the pain.
Many patients who experience chronic pain may seek help from multiple medical providers when they fail to get relief from their symptoms. This is why it is crucial for a health care provider to understand and evaluate the complete history of a patient’s chronic pain.
Common mistakes that are made by health care providers include using lab tests or imaging tests, such as CT scans and MRI’s to try to detect the source of chronic pain, all the while failing to take an adequate history and physical exam.
This can result in the failure to get a complete picture from the patient. Moreover, each lab or imaging test is not error-free; each test has a particular sensitivity and specificity and rate of error, so testing alone may not uncover the true origin of the problem.
Not all causes of chronic pain can be determined by the same tests. Common tests include x-rays, imaging such as MRIs or CT-scans, and lab work. Physiological tests may also be required, such as nerve root blocks, peripheral nerve blocks, provocative discograms, and facet blocks.
One of the more common misuses of tests is using a standard x-ray. For example, most patients who suffer neck or back pain complain of pain as they lean backward or forward. An upright x-ray would not be helpful in this circumstance because an x-ray only shows bony structures, and is not a good choice to evaluate nerve-related injuries, muscle-related injuries, or soft tissue injuries. Instead, more sophisticated imaging studies would be needed in this, and many other circumstances involving chronic pain.
Medical Malpractice And Misdiagnosis
Chronic pain can be challenging to diagnose. However, misdiagnosed chronic pain can lead to unnecessary additional pain and suffering as well as life-altering injuries.
If your pain was misdiagnosed, and you suffered injuries because of it, you may have been the victim of medical malpractice. You should speak with a medical malpractice attorney who can review the details of your claim and determine how to proceed.