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The impact of misdiagnosed cellulitis


Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection that afflicts many Florida residents, but it is also one that is prone to a misdiagnosis. It is the reason for almost 2.3 million visits to emergency rooms around the country each year. Among those who seek emergency medical care, 14 to 17 percent are admitted to the hospital.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School analyzed the ramifications and expenses associated with misdiagnosed cellulitis. The data for 259 people who were diagnosed with lower extremity cellulitis and were admitted to the hospital via the emergency department of a major urban hospital between June 2010 and December 2012 was examined. The patients who received a different diagnosis while in the hospital, upon discharge and within 30 days after being discharged were considered to have pseudocellulitis, one of the several inflammatory skin conditions that mimic cellulitis.

The researchers estimated that cases of misdiagnosed cellulitis causes 50,000 to 130,000 unwarranted hospitalizations and results in $195 million to $515 million in health care costs that could have been avoided with the right diagnoses. The estimated financial costs did not include expenses for antibiotics or other difficulties that may have arisen from receiving unnecessary treatment. The medicine and hospitalizations that resulted from the misdiagnosed cellulitis also seemed to cause additional health issues in the patients.

A misdiagnosis of an illness can lead to a worsened medical condition when the actual disease that went undetected spreads. Patients who have been affected in such a manner may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to discuss their options.