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Study shows many acute optic neuritis patients misdiagnosed

Sep 7, 2018 | Failure to Diagnose

People in New York typically approach eye doctors when they are experiencing eye pain or vision problems. Time constraints on doctors and their failure to think about alternative diagnoses could result in diagnostic mistakes when patients present with symptoms somewhat out of the ordinary. An analysis of 122 patients diagnosed with acute optic neuritis and referred to a university neuro-ophthalmology clinic determined that 59.8 percent of them had received the wrong diagnosis.

The researchers confirmed the presence of acute optic neuritis in 49 of the patients, or 40.2 percent. They concluded that ophthalmologists, optometrists and neurologists tended to over-diagnose acute optic neuritis instead of looking harder for alternatives. The authors of the study wrote that some of the misdiagnosed patients endured extra expenses because of unnecessary MRIs, treatments and lumbar punctures.

The researchers attributed many misdiagnoses to clinical decisions based on a single item of patient history. Even when clinicians looked for alternative diseases, they sometimes misinterpreted important test results or symptoms. Cognitive biases among clinicians and premature decisions contributed to the high rate of misdiagnoses among the people in the study group.

A person with a potentially serious medical problem will rely on a doctor to make a timely diagnosis and initiate appropriate treatment. A failure to diagnose a disease because of misread test results could cause negligent medical treatment. A person impacted physically and financially by medical mistakes may wish to explore the potential of a medical malpractice lawsuit with an attorney. A legal evaluation of the case might uncover evidence of medical negligence and enable an attorney to request a settlement. A malpractice claim may be resolved during negotiations with a medical provider’s insurer. In some cases, an attorney might pursue litigation and strive to gain a jury award at trial.