Kenneth J. Bush, P.A.
Medical Malpractice Lawyer
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Miami Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Understanding MELAS and methods of diagnosis

Researchers at The First Affiliated Hospital of Dalian Medical University in China have published a study in which they reviewed the resources available to health care professionals for diagnosing MELAS. Florida residents might know that this stands for mitochondrial myopathy, encephalopathy, lactic acidosis and stroke-like events.

Mitochondrial health conditions are rare and result from a mutation of mitochondrially expressed genes in an individual's DNA. MELAS is a neurodegenerative illness that worsens with time. It affects several systems in the body, particularly the muscles and nervous system. The disease is often misdiagnosed because it manifests and progresses differently. Despite this, some of the early symptoms include exercise intolerance, lack of appetite, muscle pain and weakness, recurrent headaches, seizures and vomiting. Additionally, stroke-like events could occur in severely affected individuals before they turn 40.

The dangers of childbirth in the U.S.

Florida parents may be interested in learning more about some of the dangers associated with commonplace practices used in U.S. childbirths. Electronic fetal monitoring, the procedure used to determine whether a pregnant woman will encounter complications that could require a vacuum extraction or emergency C-section, has been described as unnecessary and dangerous for patients. Extensive research has consistently found that routine EFM procedures have no measurable effect on reducing the rate of injury or death for the baby or mother.

In 1980, 45 percent of U.S. pregnant woman received EFMs, and by 2013, the total had risen to 85 percent. EFM is now the most widely used obstetric procedure in the United States. With the advent of modern science, the consensus now believe that the more technology employed, the safer the treatment, despite evidence to the contrary. Even if the tool has proven not to be effective, physicians are more hesitant to refrain from using whatever is at their disposal.

A look at medical malpractice claims and hospital prevention

Florida residents may be interested in some information about the steps that hospitals can take to help prevent harm to their patients. Failure to make a concerted effort toward curbing hospital errors can result in patient injury or death.

Statistics show that there are around a million medical injuries that occur each year around the country during medical procedures, many of which could be the basis of a medical malpractice claim. Of those who were fatally injured, approximately 7,000 people died due to a medication-related mistake and approximately 12,000 were killed during a surgery that was not medically necessary.

The potential benefits of recording surgeries

Although video equipment and recordings seem to be ubiquitous, Florida patients may wonder why these technologies are not used more in the operating room. Audiovisual recordings in medical environments may seem lacking, but legislation has been proposed in at least two states that would mandate recording in this setting. In both states, women suffered severe or fatal consequences because of anesthesia mistakes, and the laws proposed are aimed at providing more accountability and oversight related to surgeries.

Surgery mistakes can include wrong-site procedures, leaving implements in a patient and operating on the wrong patient. While these situations may be easier to identify because of the outcomes, some patients suffer adverse results without understanding why. It may be difficult to pinpoint issues such as poor infection prevention, lack of attention, or incorrect hand washing protocol as factors in a negative outcome. With an audiovisual record, families may find answers to questions about medical errors.

Giving birth may be more dangerous for Florida mothers

According to a recent report, the United States has seen an increase over the past several years of maternal deaths stemming from childbirth, placing it in the company of nations like Sudan and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, German, Japanese and Czech mothers fare much better on average than their American counterparts. This alarming trend raises questions as to why the danger to mothers is steadily increasing and what can be done about it.

In 1987, the death rate for American mothers from pregnancy complications was approximately eight out of 100,000. By 2013, the rate had increased to 18.5 out of 100,000. One explanation is that states have become better at tracking maternal deaths and the reasons for them.

Lyme disease patients report misdiagnosis is common

Some Florida residents who have Lyme disease may have waited a long time to get properly diagnosed. In a survey that published its results in May, nearly two-thirds of the 6,104 people who responded said that they were not diagnosed for more than two years.

Fewer than one-fourth of individuals said they were diagnosed within six months, and almost 50 percent reported that their diagnosis was in part delayed because their physician said the disease did not exist in their area even though cases have been reported in all 50 states and in more than 60 countries. Almost three-quarters of respondents reported their health was fair or worse, and half said they had been ill for longer than a decade.

Common diseases and disorders that are misdiagnosed

It can sometimes be difficult for doctors to provide a correct diagnosis for a patient. This is because many common diseases or disorders often present as something else, leading some doctors to misdiagnose a patient in order to attempt to provide a treatment. Some of the most common disorders can be extremely debilitating or even cause a person to have a lesser quality of life.

When a person suffers a migraine, many physicians prescribe an over-the-counter pain medication to take care of the symptoms. However, a majority of migraines are food-related. Without investigating the cause, the person could continue to suffer episodes. Thyroid disorders affect many of the body's systems, making it very difficult for doctors to diagnose. Lupus is often misdiagnosed as seborrheic dermatitis as the rashes are similar. Lyme disease, which can be debilitating if not properly diagnosed, often presents as joint pain or a rash.

New study blames existing standards for misdiagnosis of COPD

People in Florida who have been diagnosed with chronic obstruction pulmonary disease, commonly known as COPD, might wish to know how clinical standards were applied by their health care practitioners. A study authored by researchers in the United States and the United Kingdom cited problems with airway obstruction definitions that lead to over-diagnosing older men with the condition and under-diagnosing younger women. The researchers estimated that 13 percent of patients receive an improper diagnosis of COPD.

The diagnostic criteria in question were established in 2001 by the Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease. Widely adopted by clinicians globally, they are now coming under scrutiny for not allowing enough consideration of a patient's age or gender.

How patients can help prevent hospital negligence

Hospital errors are unfortunately common in Florida and around the country. Many of these mistakes do not result in serious harm to patients, but some can be deadly, and it has been estimated that upwards of 400,000 people die each year prematurely as a result. Making sure that a hospital is safe prior to admission, if possible, is important.

Patients should bring a trusted friend or family member to help prevent hospital errors when they are too sick or weak to advocate for themselves. The friend or family member can bring the staff's attention to problems and help decrease wait times in an emergency. Patients should bring all their medications, including any supplements, with them to the hospital. This can help prevent potentially deadly medication errors. Bringing the medications or taking a photo of them will help ensure accuracy better than lists or trying to list them from memory.

Patient awarded $500,000 for remarks made by doctor

Most Florida patients expect to be treated with dignity and professionalism when they are undergoing a treatment or a procedure. However, there are some cases where physicians or other health care workers are caught treating patients in a disrespectful or even harmful manner.

In a lawsuit, a Virginia man claimed that he used his phone to record instructions prior to undergoing a colonoscopy; however, he reportedly forgot to turn the recording device off during the actual procedure. When he replayed the instructions, he reportedly found that his anesthesiologist had made numerous disparaging remarks regarding his genitalia. In addition to joking about firing a gun up the man's rectum, she also reportedly remarked that the man "probably" had tuberculosis and that her assistant could contract syphilis if she touched a genital rash.