Health

More than 7 million people are misdiagnosed in emergency departments in the US each year

(CNN) — A new study reveals that nearly 6% of the 130 million people who visit emergency departments in the US each year are misdiagnosed, meaning 1 in 18 patients is misdiagnosed.

The report, released Thursday by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, reviews nearly 300 studies published between January 2000 and September 2001.

Researchers estimate that 7.4 million diagnostic errors are made each year, 2.6 million people are harmed that could have been prevented, and another 370,000 are permanently disabled or die from misdiagnosis. This equates to about 1,400 misdiagnoses per year per ED nationwide.

The researchers noted that these rates are on par with those also seen in primary care and hospitals.

The five most misdiagnosed diseases were as follows

  • ictus
  • myocardial infarction
  • aortic aneurysm/dissection
  • spinal cord compression/injury
  • venous thromboembolism

These five conditions accounted for 39% of all serious harm related to misdiagnosis.

Stroke was missed 17% of the time, often because people reported symptoms of dizziness and vertigo. Upon entering the emergency department, 40% of the patients presenting these two symptoms were not initially diagnosed as having a stroke.

According to the study, non-specific or atypical symptoms were the most important factor in misdiagnoses.

Women and people of color had a 20% to 30% increased risk of misdiagnosis.

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