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Fine line exists between diagnosis and overdiagnosis

As Oregon residents may know, health care professionals use a myriad of tools to arrive at a proper diagnosis. Today, the contents of that tool chest have expanded to include neuroimaging and other sophisticated techniques. Defining disease such a traumatic brain injury and breast cancer are but two of the areas where diagnosis is aided by new tests.

There is a fine line between diagnosis and overdiagnosis, according to a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. In some cases, the nidus of suspected disease detected by sophisticated instruments might not herald harm to the patient. In addition, in situations where the true diagnosis might be better confirmed by biopsy, deciding on a diagnosis is tenuous if a biopsy cannot be performed.

One area where the interplay between neuroimaging techniques and diagnosis happens is mild traumatic brain injury. Such a brain injury may not cause persistent clinical symptoms, or the symptoms might be transitory. This diagnosis might cause problems in other areas such as causing an athlete to retire unnecessarily. In breast cancer, not diagnosing a patient early may result in disease that fails to respond to treatment. A misdiagnosis in such cases may be below the standard of care expected of a health care professional.The boundary between disease and non-disease is getting smaller due to sophistication of diagnostic tools. While doctors make every effort to treat disease early, hoping to increase the treatment’s efficacy, overdiagnosing may occur.

If a patient’s condition worsened as a result of an overdiagnosis or a misdiagnosis, speaking with an attorney may be helpful. Legal counsel may review the patient’s medical records with an expert to determine if the diagnosis was flawed. If so, it could be advisable to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover compensation for the losses that have been sustained.