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Des Moines Personal Injury Law Blog

Radiology errors threaten patient wellbeing

A new study conducted by the Hospital for Special Surgery casts doubt on one of the cornerstones of modern healthcare. The study involved an analysis of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) results gathered from a number of different facilities. The same patient was sent to 10 facilities to have an MRI done on her lower back. The results of these MRIs varied widely.

Lack of consistency

An incorrect diagnosis can have an unfortunate impact on a patient's health. Vital treatment may be delayed while the patient undergoes unnecessary treatment that can do more harm than good. To be useful, MRIs and other radiological testing must provide reliable results. The results in this study showed that the testing is anything but reliable. 

Signs of a brain injury

Damage to the brain is one of the most serious injuries a person can face. Since the brain is so delicate and yet vital to the function of the entire body, trauma to it may result in life-long consequences. Unfortunately, sometimes doctors who operate on or near the brain make mistakes that may cause damage. Therefore, it is extremely important for patients in Iowa and their loved ones to recognize the signs of brain injury and report them immediately.

According to Healthline, there are several different types of head injuries. Probably the most common is concussion, which is the result of the brain knocking against the skull due to extreme shaking, a fall or a blow to the head. However, other injuries that may cause serious damage are internal bleeding, known as hemorrhaging, or clotting, known as hematoma. Several different types of injuries may lead to swelling of the brain, which is called edema. Patients who have suffered extreme brain trauma may also experience seizures.

Cancer: not an uncommon misdiagnosis

Cancer is one of the most feared diagnoses a doctor in Iowa or any other state can give. ABC News reports that around 1.3 million people are found to have this deadly disease each year. While research is being done on the causes and cures for cancer, new studies are starting to emerge which detail a different side of the problem: misdiagnosis.

 

Messy handwriting leads to medication errors

To people in Iowa, it is fun to joke about how doctors have messy handwriting, to people who have experienced a medication error, messy handwriting is not something to laugh about. According to Time, about 7,000 deaths every year are a result of medical errors caused by messy handwriting, with another 1.5 million people suffering injuries because of the same errors. Issues usually result because dosage amounts and directions cannot be read, or medication names are incoherent. Obviously, a patient receiving the wrong dosage or wrong medication can have catastrophic results.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it is not just sloppy writing that is to blame for such medication errors. Similar medication names and incorrect abbreviations also play a role. There are specific abbreviations that tend to be commonly misinterpreted, such as U that signifies unit being read as a zero. There are also very many medication names that look similar, such as Taxol and Taxotere or Celebrex and Celexa.

Wrong medications compromise nursing home residents’ health

Making the move to a nursing home is not one that you and your loved one choose lightly. However, if you are unable to provide round-the-clock care, you may be concerned that dementia or immobility issues may put him or her in danger. When health care providers at the long-term care facility prescribe and administer medications that are unnecessary, your loved one’s life may be at risk. We at Galligan & Reid, P.C., have offered legal counsel to many families who have had to deal with this type of nursing home abuse.

NPR reports that as a resident’s family member, you must be presented with a consent form for medication. However, studies indicate that many people have been told that the physician believed the drugs were necessary, trusted the information, and then signed the forms without researching the medication and its possible reactions or side effects. Because of this, investigators have discovered that doctors in facilities across the country have been prescribing antipsychotics to nursing home residents.

What is traumatic brain injury?

Injuries to the brain are always a serious matter. When your head is struck in some way or something happens externally to produce damage to the brain, it is considered a traumatic brain injury. These injuries can range from mild to severe. You may even have experienced a TBI if you have ever had a concussion. According to Medical News Today, TBIs account for one-third of all deaths related to injuries.

This type of injury can be caused by many things, but it is important to remember that it must be caused by something external to be considered a TBI. Falls are the main cause, but blows to the head are common too. You may sustain a brain injury by being involved in a car accident or fight, and a person who shakes a baby may cause this type of brain damage, as well. In fact, the third most common result of child abuse is TBI.

Being misdiagnosed can cause additional problems

If you are going in for a regular checkup or to find out what is causing some worrying health symptoms, you have every right to hope your doctor accurately and quickly discovers anything wrong. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for patients in Iowa and elsewhere to be misdiagnosed. At Galligan Reid PC, we are aware of the potentially serious complications that can result from a missed diagnosis. If your doctor does not discover an illness or says you have something other than what you have, you might miss out on timely medication or be given the wrong type of treatment. It goes without saying that the longer you wait on a serious illness, the worse your prognosis and recovery might become.

In a recent medical study cited by CBS News, it was discovered that about 12 million adults who visit their doctors’ offices or outpatient clinics are misdiagnosed every year. About half of these misdiagnoses have the potential to cause serious medical issues, including a worsened condition or death. How might your doctor, whose judgment you likely trust, make a mistake on diagnosing your symptoms? Your physician might order the wrong type of test based on your symptoms or make a mistake interpreting your test results. Some illnesses mimic those of less serious conditions – for example, your doctor might say you just have a bad cold when, in fact, you have a severe bacterial infection requiring immediate antibiotics.

Hospitals and defective medical devices

When a medical device fails or somehow causes harm to a patient, hospitals are supposed to report the problem to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Unfortunately, many hospitals are either unaware of their responsibilities or they are ignoring them. An inspection conducted by the FDA found numerous instances of hospitals failing to report illnesses or injuries tied to defective devices.

The legal requirement

Under federal law, hospitals are considered mandatory reporters when it comes to reporting defective or dangerous devices. Medical Device Reporting, or MDR, requires hospitals as well as device manufacturers and importers to file reports regarding adverse events and product problems tied to medical products. Hospitals must inform the FDA and the device manufacturer if they suspect a death is related to a medical device. They must report serious injuries linked to a device to the manufacturer of the device, or to the FDA if they don't know who manufactured the device. 

Electronic health records may pose a danger to patients

A vendor for electronic health records software released a statement earlier this month concerning potential safety risks posed by its products. The announcement listed the various parties associated with the health care process, including doctors, pharmacies, patients and their family members, and indicated that each needed to play a role in preventing the risks posed by the software. While the announcement is a dubious method of warning the public about the dangers of electronic health records software, the recommendations it lays out can help patients avoid potentially deadly medical mistakes.

Errors in medication can be prevented

Ideally, doctors and pharmacists would take all necessary precautions to ensure that patients are not prescribed or given drugs that could cause them serious harm. Unfortunately, mistakes are surprisingly common and it is patients who suffer for it. The vendor's announcement contained the following advice given to patients, family members and caregivers:

  • Get access to your records online and review the notes, prescriptions and tests mentioned in those records
  • Stay up to date on the medications you are on, including their names and dosages, and any other orders given by your doctor reflected in your records
  • Confirm that the pharmacy supplied the correct medication in the correct dose, as ordered by your physician 

Defective medical devices may escape FDA notice

A device used to regulate the temperature of patients undergoing heart surgeries has been tied to numerous infections and a dozen deaths in the U.S. alone. The Food and Drug Administration's slow reaction to the problem demonstrates a gap in the way safety regulators evaluate medical devices for defects. Infections are a well-known problem in hospitals and may be treated as a general or background problem because of their frequency. Medical devices can be defective in ways not connected to the immediate purpose they serve. A device that facilitates an infection is defective, even if it operates in the way it was intended.

Caught off guard

The FDA admitted that it was surprised by the nature of the threat posed by the Sorin heater-cooler devices. It received reports of infections tied to the device as early as 2009, but failed to launch an investigation until 2014. Countless procedures occurred in the interim, and an untold number of infections likely resulted. The FDA has defended its response to the threat, but critics suggest it is part of a larger problem in the way regulators and hospitals regard infections. If the device failed in some other way, the response likely would have been faster and more decisive. 

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