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Why do doctors misdiagnose conditions in the ER?

There are a variety of conditions that doctors around the country fail to properly diagnose in the emergency room. In fact, several recent studies show that misdiagnosis is a common problem. Some of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions include heart attacks, cancer, pulmonary embolisms, strokes and appendicitis.

A piece on FindLaw.com explored some of the emergency room errors that occur and why doctors continue to misdiagnose these conditions. For example, heart attack symptoms are not the same in men and women, since women usually don't have pain in the chest and left arm like men. Rather, women tend to experience other symptoms, which include neck pain and dizziness. Unfortunately, some physicians still mistakenly believe chest pain is a primary heart attack indicator in both genders and wrongfully diagnose women with other ailments, such as indigestion, without ordering blood tests or an electrocardiogram. 

Other factors that may play a role in misdiagnosis include misinterpreting test results, improper physical examinations, under-staffed facilities, inexperience and failure to thoroughly examine a patient's medical history. After all, many physicians are busy and do not spend enough time with patients or review their information as much as they should.

Misdiagnoses, whether they occur in the emergency room or doctor's office, can have a significant impact on patients. Failure to accurately diagnose medical conditions can cause suffering that should have been prevented, worsening health, permanent disabilities and even death. There are a variety of ways you can protect yourself from a misdiagnosis, such as carrying your electronic medical records with you, thoroughly documenting your symptoms, closely evaluating your family's medical history and asking for a second opinion.

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