If you ever get a stomachache so bad that you have to go to the emergency room, watch out: there is a good chance that ER doctors will misdiagnose your condition, according to a news report.
A study recently released by the Baylor College of Medicine suggests that one in three people who come to the ER with acute stomach pain wind up getting misdiagnosed. Out of 100 high-risk patients whose cases were included in the study, 35 experienced a diagnostic error. The most frequently misdiagnosed illnesses that cause stomach pain were urinary-tract infections and gall bladder problems.
Most of the errors came during one of three stages: taking the patient’s medical history, ordering tests or following up on those tests. Fortunately, none of the 35 misdiagnosis victims suffered any significant harm as a result, but the Baylor study found that two of them could easily have died, and three more could potentially have suffered “very serious damage” or “very serious harm.”
Besides pointing out the apparent likelihood of ER doctors misdiagnosing abdominal pain, the study suggests a way to check on the accuracy of such diagnoses. The research team developed an electronic trigger for medical records of patients who came to the hospital with acute abdominal pain, then had to be admitted to the hospital 10 days later. This suggests they were not diagnosed correctly the first time around.
Lack of research into the problem of misdiagnosis is a notorious problem. This trigger could provide hospitals and researchers a way of tracking trends and make improvements to patient care.