WHAT IS A FAILURE TO DIAGNOSE APPENDICITIS?
Failure to diagnose appendicitis is a form of medical malpractice in which a doctor fails to take the proper steps to determine that a patient’s appendix is inflamed and at risk of rupturing. When a doctor or other health care provider fails to diagnose appendicitis, it can result in serious injury to the patient, including death. There are certain things a doctor should do, and certain clinical and medical information that a doctor should obtain, in order to properly diagnose and care for a patient that may have appendicitis.
When a proper diagnosis is made and proper treatment is provided, a patient is much more likely to recover quickly with few or no serious complications. The goal for any health care provider, including those evaluating a possible appendicitis, is to make a correct diagnosis and provide proper treatment. When this does not occur, it significantly increases the likelihood that serious injury, or even death, can occur.
Appendicitis is the third most frequently missed medical diagnosis, and failures to diagnose appendicitis are alarmingly common. Studies indicate that up to 30 percent of people diagnosed with acute appendicitis were previously seen by a doctor and misdiagnosed. Misdiagnoses rates are highest among children and infants.
WHAT IS APPENDICITIS AND WHAT CAUSES IT?
Anyone can develop appendicitis and 1 in 15 people will get appendicitis over the course of his or her lifetime. It most commonly occurs to people 10-30 years old, although it can occur anytime over the course of a person’s life.
The appendix is 3.5 inch finger-shaped pouch that hangs from the colon on the right side of the abdomen. Appendicitis occurs when the inner lining of the appendix becomes inflamed and fills with pus. If left untreated, the inflamed appendix will rupture. Once ruptured, the pus can quickly spread infection throughout the abdominal cavity. A ruptured appendix can lead to infection, blood poisoning, numerous complications, long hospital stays, and even death.
Appendicitis occurs when the tube-shaped appendix becomes blocked. Blockages may occur from feces, a foreign object in the body, abdominal trauma, parasites, enlarged lymph tissue, a tumor, or an inflammatory bowel disease. This obstruction causes mucus to back up into in the appendiceal lumen. This blockage and mucus buildup causes the bacteria that live in the appendix to multiply. As the bacteria multiply, the appendix begins to swell and becomes infected.
While appendicitis has numerous symptoms, individuals may have appendicitis despite the absence of several of these symptoms. Symptoms include the following:
- Pain near the belly button or the upper or lower abdomen that becomes sharp as it moves to the lower right abdomen. This is the most common appendicitis symptom.
- Appetite loss
- Fever of 99 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit
- Nausea or vomiting soon after abdominal pain begins
- Abdominal swelling
- Constipation or diarrhea with gas
- Inability to pass gas
Less common symptoms include the following:
- Dull or sharp pain anywhere in the upper or lower abdomen, back, or rectum
- Painful urination
- Vomiting that precedes the abdominal pain
HOW TO DIAGNOSE APPENDICITIS
There are several methods a doctor may select to detect appendicitis.
- Physical examination. A simple examination of the belly may help a doctor determine if someone has appendicitis. The doctor may apply physical pressure of the painful area. When the pressure is released, pain caused by appendicitis will often feel worse.
- Blood test. The doctor may test your blood to see if there is a high white blood cell count. A high white blood cell count may indicate an infection such as appendicitis.
- Urine tests. Urine tests may help a doctor rule out urinary tract infection as the cause of your symptoms.
- Imaging tests. Your doctor may choose to do an abdominal x-ray, an ultrasound scan, or a computerized tomography (CT) scan to confirm appendicitis or find other causes for your pain.
TREATMENT OF APPENDICITIS
Once inflammation begins, an appendectomy surgery is in almost all instances the best option. Appendectomy surgery can often be done using a minimally invasive procedure called “laparoscopic appendectomy” involving multiple small incisions. In some cases, an “open appendectomy” utilizing one large incision may be necessary. Either way, the surgeon removes the inflamed appendix to best protect the patient by avoiding the danger of rupture.
HOW A FAILURE TO DIAGNOSE APPENDICITIS CAN OCCUR
Diagnosing appendicitis can be complicated because symptoms are frequently vague or similar to less urgent illnesses. Appendicitis is frequently misdiagnosed as gastroenteritis. Diagnosis is further complicated because many people do not have classic symptoms. Despite this, there are a series of steps that a doctor must take to minimize the likelihood of a improper diagnosis.
In order to properly diagnose appendicitis, the doctor should ask a series of questions such as when the pain began, what part of the abdomen hurts, if the pain has moved, how severe is the pain, what makes it more severe, what helps the pain, if there is a fever, if there is nausea, and if there are any other symptoms. If the doctor does not ask questions like these, there the doctor may not be able to properly diagnose appendicitis.
Failures to diagnosis may occur in the following instances:
- Failure to give a proper physical examination
- Failure to order appropriate tests, including lab work or a CT scan
- Where there is an unusual presentation of symptoms
- Misdiagnosis as a less serious illness
- Failing to ask the proper questions to ascertain symptoms
- Failure to read imaging results properly
- Inadequate follow up
- Receipt of analgesia for undiagnosed abdominal pain or symptoms.
COMPLICATIONS OF A MISSED DIAGNOSIS AND A BURST APPENDIX
The failure to diagnose appendicitis or to diagnose it in time increases the chance of an appendix rupture. An infected appendix can rupture or burst within 24 hours after symptoms begin. If your appendix ruptures, the contents of your intestines and infectious organisms in the pus can leak into your abdominal cavity. Even if treated immediately after rupture, it can cause an infection of your abdominal cavity known as peritonitis. If peritonitis is not treated in time, it can lead to sepsis, a type of blood poisoning, and result in death.
This peritonitis infection can lead to numerous other complications which require portions of the digestive tract to be removed. The patient will often require extensive hospitalization, numerous surgeries, and powerful antibiotics. To add insult to injury, the patient may also be burdened with countless expenses caused due to the doctor’s malpractice of failing to diagnose appendicitis or detect a burst appendix.
DID YOU SUFFER A FAILURE TO APPENDIX INJURY?
Our firm has the background and experience to determine whether a failure to diagnose an appendicitis has occurred. It is generally challenging to prove that any type of medical malpractice has occurred, including those claims in which there is an allegation that there has been a failure to diagnose appendicitis. Because of how challenging it is prove that medical malpractice has occurred, we develop a plan that gives you the best chance at a good outcome. This frequently includes getting the medical records quickly, and having those records reviewed by medical experts. So, if you believe that you may have been the victim of a failure to diagnose an appendicitis, and our investigation supports this type of medical malpractice, our firm can help get you the compensation you need and deserve to help offset all of your harms, losses and damages.
CONTACT OUR FIRM FOR A FREE CASE EVALUATION
If you believe that your doctor misdiagnosed your symptoms or did not diagnose your appendicitis in a timely fashion, call Ray Gupta & Associates – we help people and families throughout Illinois and Indiana. Please contact us to schedule a free consultation with an experienced lawyer. Cases are taken on a contingency fee basis, which means that you owe us nothing unless your claim is successful and results in compensation.