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Failure to diagnose brain disease can have deadly consequences

Patients rely on the expertise of Oregon doctors and medical professionals to properly diagnose diseases and illnesses. Prompt treatment for patients is crucial, as they are putting their lives in the hands of healthcare providers. In some cases, healthcare providers overlook symptoms and fail to order tests resulting in misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose a life-threatening condition. This may lead to patient injury or even death.

A new study involving the misdiagnosis of a rare brain disease illustrates the deadly consequences of a failure to diagnose a fatal disease. The fatal brain disorder is called sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The study shows various misdiagnoses commonly result in a failure to properly treat the disease. The variability of early symptoms and a lack of recognition by healthcare providers contribute to the high rate of misdiagnosis. It is often mistaken for Alzheimer's disease.

The study reviewed the cases of 97 patients and found that they were misdiagnosed an average of 3.8 times before receiving a correct diagnosis. The average time from onset of symptoms to a proper diagnosis was nearly eight months - this is two-thirds of the way through the average duration of the disease.

The authors of the study said early and accurate diagnosis of the disease is critical. A prompt diagnosis promotes public health measures, as it would prevent transmission to healthy individuals through blood donation and other medical procedures. Early diagnosis also allows potential treatments to be tested as soon as possible. It's reported that around 200 cases of the disease are diagnosed each year in the United States.

Misdiagnosis is not limited to rare diseases. It can happen in any variety of cases, including appendicitis, cancer, stroke and heart attack. Failure to diagnose deadly diseases and illnesses may result in a worsened condition or death. For Oregonians who have suffered injury as a result of a misdiagnosis, recovery against the parties at fault may be possible.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Misdiagnosis Common for Rare Brain Disease: Study," Sept. 25, 2012

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