Diagnostic errors are a significant contributing factor to the mortality rate in hospitalized patients. In the United States alone there are an estimated 40 to 80 thousand deaths that occur annually due to diagnostic errors. Though any patient can suffer a diagnostic error, according to a recent scholarly article in a medical journal, intensive care unit patients in particular appear to be significantly more susceptible. Also, as a subset, the Pediatric ICU and neonatal ICU seem to be especially vulnerable due to the frailty of the patients in that category who have compromised or not fully developed functioning immune systems.

In general, a diagnostic error is defined as a diagnosis that is either missed or wrong. When this happens it can cause significant harm to a patient because the malady with which the patient is afflicted is not being treated appropriately, potentially leaving the patient in a worsened condition. If a diagnosis is delayed, meaning that it was detected by subsequent testing, then that also can be categorized as a diagnostic error.

Misdiagnosis is another form of medical error that happens when a patient is given treatment for a condition that the patient does not actually have. Diagnostic error and a misdiagnosis can cause a patient harm, potentially leaving them in a worsened condition. Furthermore, diagnostic errors more often than naot tend to be under reported.

Both misdiagnosis and diagnostic errors fall under the umbrella of medical malpractice particularly if a patient has suffered harm due to these medical mistakes and if it can be shown that the healthcare provider was negligent and did not provide a reasonable standard of care under the given circumstance. Many times the facts of a case many not be clear cut. Medical malpractice attorneys are experienced in examining facts to determine if a fact pattern a good medical malpractice case or not.

Source: Medscape, “Diagnostic Errors in the Pediatric and Neonatal ICU-Introduction,” Jason Custer and et al., 2015