Not all pneumonia misdiagnosis events are malpractice. But when a physician delays or makes an incorrect diagnosis that injures the patient and it is a preventable error, that physician may be held liable for their actions.
A misdiagnosis occurs when a physician diagnoses a patient incorrectly with another condition, or when they delay the right diagnosis, and it causes further harm to the patient. Pneumonia is a very serious condition, and when it is not treated properly, it can be fatal for some patients. Therefore, being misdiagnosed with something else while suffering from pneumonia is serious.
If you or a loved one suffered injury, or you lost a family member due to a misdiagnosis for pneumonia, contact an attorney immediately. Medical misdiagnosis cases are incredibly complex, and you need an attorney with experience handling medical malpractice cases to review the facts of your case and determine if you do have a malpractice claim.
What Is Pneumonia?
Pneumonia is a lung infection. It can be viral or bacterial, and the air sacs of the lungs slowly fill with fluid, which makes it hard for the patient to breathe. One or both lungs may become affected, known as double pneumonia. While other times only a specific lobe of the lung is affected, known as lobar pneumonia.
This illness is incredibly common – affecting more than 3 million people each year. With treatment, pneumonia can be minor for most patients. However, those who are elderly, very young children, and individuals with pre-existing medical conditions or weakened immune systems may not recover as easily. Therefore, receiving treatment immediately is imperative.
Some common symptoms of pneumonia include:
- Heavy Cough
- Producing Cough with Pus or Phlegm
- High Fever
- Body Aches
- Breathing Complications
How a Physician Diagnoses Pneumonia
Diagnosing pneumonia requires a physical examination of the patient; therefore, a physician cannot diagnose using a teladoc service.
Some methods used by physicians to diagnose their patient with pneumonia include:
- Reviewing the patient’s medical history. Typically, pneumonia is a secondary infection. Therefore, a patient may be ill before contracting pneumonia – such as suffering from the flu and then developing pneumonia. Also, some patients are more susceptible to developing pneumonia, such as a person with HIV or a weakened immune system.
- Physically examining the patient for pneumonia. A physical examination is always required to properly diagnose pneumonia, because a physician needs to listen to the patient’s chest. By doing so, they can hear wheezing, bubbling, or crackling, which tells them there is fluid in the patient’s lungs.
- Going over the signs and symptoms the patient is experiencing. While doing the physical examination, the physician should also go over all of the symptoms with the patient, see what symptoms they are experiencing, and determine if pneumonia is likely. For example, they will ask if they have been ill recently, if they are having trouble breathing, if they have had body aches or chills, if there is any fatigue, or if they are having rapid breathing episodes.
- Using diagnostic tests for a final determination. After completing the above steps, a physician might already suspect pneumonia, but they should still do diagnostic tests to make sure they are diagnosing the right condition. Using only the criteria above, some physicians feel confident they can prescribe antibiotics and call it pneumonia, but that may not be enough – especially if it turns out the patient did not have pneumonia. Other diagnostic tests they should use include a chest x-ray or a CT scan for signs of fluid in the lung. For more severe cases, a pleural fluid culture or bronchoscopy might be indicated.
What Conditions Could a Person with Pneumonia Be Wrongly Diagnosed With?
Pneumonia is misdiagnosed frequently because its symptoms mirror other respiratory conditions. A patient may be diagnosed with acute respiratory distress and given treatment like any other viral condition. If it is a pneumonia infection, that patient could worsen rapidly without antibiotics.
Other conditions patients are misdiagnosed with include bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smokers are especially prone to misdiagnosis, because a physician may assume the sounds in their lungs are from smoking instead of a respiratory infection.
Understanding a Doctor’s Duty to Diagnose Properly
Physicians must rely on tests and their experience to diagnose their patients correctly. When a medical professional does not diagnose his or her patient correctly, it can lead to a more serious form of pneumonia, hospitalization, long-term complications, and even death.
A doctor may fail to diagnose their patient properly if they:
- Fail to order or read diagnostic test results before diagnosing their patient;
- Fail to follow up with their patient and ensure they are getting better;
- Fail to prescribe an adequate dose of antibiotics that will cure the pneumonia infection;
- Rush their examination and ignore patient complaints or symptoms;
- Ignore the high risks involved with the patient’s existing medical conditions.
Should You Contact an Attorney If You Were Misdiagnosed?
If you were misdiagnosed with another illness when you had pneumonia, you may have a case against that healthcare worker. You will want to speak with an attorney that has handled medical malpractice cases before, as that is the type of lawsuit you need to seek compensation against a healthcare professional.
Attorney Seth Gladstein from the Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC, can help you with your case. You sought out medical treatment, because you trusted that a medical professional would diagnose you and take care of you properly. When you suffer additional injuries, illnesses, or lose a loved one because a physician misdiagnosed pneumonia, you can hold them accountable for your financial losses, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.
To explore your options, schedule an appointment for a no-obligation case evaluation. We will go over your medical records and diagnosis and see if you have a case. If you do, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, and more.
Call us now or contact us online to learn more about our success with past medical malpractice claims.