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Why do doctors misdiagnose appendicitis so frequently?

On Behalf of | Jan 5, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

As a parent, few things are likely to cause you more consternation than having a sick child. If your son or daughter has serious health problems or life-threatening ones, you want answers to come quickly. You also want the answers doctors give you to be correct. That isn’t always the case, though.

According to reporting from CNN, emergency room doctors in the U.S. make more than 7 million incorrect diagnoses every single year. While some of these misdiagnoses are mostly harmless, too many others put lives in jeopardy. An appendicitis misdiagnosis falls into the latter category.

A common problem

Even though appendicitis is a common surgical emergency, doctors often believe patients are suffering from something else. Indeed, according to Michigan Medicine, physicians misdiagnose appendicitis in as many as 15 percent of pediatric cases. Misdiagnoses are even more common for adult patients.

A health emergency

When medical professionals catch appendicitis early, it is almost always treatable. A child’s chances of surviving the condition, however, plummet quickly with the passage of time. Indeed, if an appendix ruptures, toxic fluids can enter the body cavity, potentially exposing a child to sepsis, septic shock and other life-threatening complications.

A mixed bag of symptoms

Many doctors believe appendicitis only causes pain to the lower-left side of the abdomen. This pain worsens when physicians apply pressure. While these thoughts are sometimes true, lower-left abdominal pain is a symptom in less than half of all appendicitis cases. If doctors are too quick to dismiss appendicitis because of a lack of localized pain, a child’s life may be in extreme danger.

Ultimately, because appendicitis can come with a mixed bag of symptoms, doctors need to rethink the way they diagnose the condition.


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