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What is Differential Diagnosis?

What is Differential Diagnosis?

You would have most likely heard this phrase when you are getting medical care and treatment. Your doctor might tell you that he would have to go through a differential diagnosis to determine the exact cause for your health problem. When you consult your doctor for some health issue, your doctor will be asking you many questions. These questions are asked to narrow down what the most likely causes could be for your particular complaints.

Once the doctor feels he knows what might be the most likely causes, he will then try to determine the exact cause by doing various tests. It could be clinical tests, or diagnostic tests such as scans, X-rays, blood tests, and so on. These tests are done to rule out or rule in from the list of most likely causes for your health issue. The doctor will be ruling out the listed various most likely causes, as he continues to do the various tests. He will then ultimately conclude what exactly is causing you the problem.

How is Differential Diagnosis used in Proving Medical Malpractice?

In a medical malpractice case in New York, the lawyer of the patient will have the opportunity to question the doctor being sued. In cases where there is failure to diagnose or there is misdiagnosis, the lawyer will specifically ask the doctor about the differential diagnosis he has performed. The doctor will be asked what were the causes or problems he was considering. The doctor will then give a full list of the causes he thought were possible for the patient’s complaints.

The lawyer will go through these causes and ask the doctor about each one. For instance, if the doctor had suspected cancer, the lawyer will ask what clinical tests were performed to rule out the fact that the patient may have cancer. The doctor will then tell about the diagnostic and other tests that were performed, to determine whether the patient had cancer. Then the lawyer will ask the doctor what he felt was the next most likely cause for the patient’s problem, and repeat the same procedure until all the causes listed by the doctor in differential diagnosis were finished.

Cross Examining the Doctor Based on Differential Diagnosis

The doctor will be asked whether it was important for him to rule in or rule out the most likely causes. The doctor will obviously agree to this, and the lawyer will ask further, that the failure to evaluate properly each of those most likely causes would be a departure from good and accepted medical care. The doctor will have to say yes to this question, because it is magnificent and appropriate medical practice to go ahead and create a list of most likely causes for the patient’s health problem, and then rule out each cause until the exact cause is found out for proper treatment.

Once the lawyer is able to pin down the doctor that differential diagnosis was not used or used insufficiently, it becomes easy to prove that there was failure to diagnose or there was a misdiagnosis.