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Differential Diagnosis and Indiana Medical Malpractice

May 21, 2010 | Firm News, Medical Malpractice

The concept of differential diagnosis is often at the heart of Indiana medical malpractice trials. A differential diagnosis is a process used by doctors to determine the cause of a patient’s symptoms. The doctor creates a list of the conditions that could be causing the patient’s problems and then pares down the list through a process of elimination until a diagnosis is determined.

A differential diagnosis is frequently employed in the setting of patients presenting to the emergency room with acute abdominal pain. Patients with acute abdominal pain account for 5 to 10% of all emergency room visits in the United States. The list of potential causes of acute abdominal pain is huge and ranges from relatively minor conditions (constipation) to potentially life-threatening conditions (an aortic aneurysm).

Problems arise when doctors assume the patient’s symptoms are being caused by a minor condition without ruling out a potentially deadly condition. For example, patients with acute appendicitis are sometimes discharged from hospital emergency rooms with a diagnosis of gastroenteritis, or stomach flu. Such a patient may go on to have his appendix rupture, leading to prolonged hospitalization or even death.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a doctor’s failure to properly employ a differential diagnosis, an experienced Indiana medical malpractice lawyer may be able to help.