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Tucson Medical Malpractice Law Blog

ER doctors' assumptions result in brain damage for thousands

One of the most important ways for a doctor in Arizona to minimize the damage caused by a stroke is to diagnose it right away. However, when a woman, a person of color or someone under the age of 45 goes to the emergency room complaining of dizziness or a headache, many doctors fail to consider these as signs of a stroke, researchers from Johns Hopkins say.

Medical specialists gathered data from over 187,000 patient records in more than 1,000 hospitals. After being told they had issues such as migraine, or an inner ear infection, many of the patients returned home from the ER only to be hospitalized within 30 days for stroke. In fact, more than a quarter of them had a stroke within 48 hours of their ER discharge. Minorities were between 20 and 30 percent more likely to receive a misdiagnosis than white males over the age of 45, and women suffering from early stroke symptoms were 33 percent more likely to be sent home. 

Doctors remove organ mistaken for cancer

Few things are more nerve-wracking than undergoing surgery. In fact, many people choose Arizona doctors only after reviewing performance records and qualifications.

There is some uncertainty involved with any invasive surgery, but few people would expect catastrophic mistakes, such as that which befell a Florida patient undergoing back surgery a number of years ago. This particular case was recently the subject of a half-million dollar settlement.

3 common anesthesia errors

Going under anesthesia is a serious concern for many patients across Arizona, and if you are among them, you may find yourself preoccupied with all the “what ifs” that could potentially happen because of your anesthesia treatment. At the Law Office of Jojene E Mills, P.C., we recognize that serious, and in some cases, potentially life-threatening situations can arise because physicians make anesthesia errors, and we have helped many patients who suffered injury because of a medical provider’s negligence or mistake pursue appropriate recourse.

According to Elcam Medical, more than 250,000 Americans lose their lives every year because of medical errors, and some of those errors involve medical professionals making mistakes while treating patients using anesthesia. Just what types of anesthesia errors are endangering today’s patients?

Problems with diagnosing Lyme disease

At the Law Office of JoJene E. Mills, P.C., we know that it can be frustrating when you are sick but you don’t know what’s wrong. With some serious conditions, such as cancer or brain injuries, the results can be devastating if you don’t receive an accurate or timely diagnosis. The same can be true for Arizona residents who are suffering from diseases that are difficult to detect and not widely understood in the medical community, such as Lyme disease.

Lyme disease cases in Arizona are relatively rare compared to many other states, which can complicate diagnosis and treatment. The Lyme Disease Association reported only 168 cases of the tick-borne illness in Arizona between 1990 and 2015, as opposed to 93,481 cases in Pennsylvania during the same period. As you can imagine, doctors who don’t see this disease as often can have difficulty pinpointing what’s wrong or might give a wrong diagnosis.

What is patient dumping?

If you visit the hospital, the last thing you would expect is to be escorted off the premises while you are disoriented and have no way to contact anyone for a ride home. Sadly, this is a common occurrence for patients in Arizona and across the country, despite it being an uncompassionate, dangerous and even illegal act.

Last December, an incident involving a mentally ill patient being discharged from a Baltimore, Maryland, hospital wearing only a hospital gown made national news. As HealthCare Dive reported, a witness stepped in when hospital staff left the confused and incoherent woman alone at a bus stop. He called authorities and made sure she was readmitted before a family member claimed her.

Guidelines involving pediatric TBI

Although traumatic brain injuries can be seriously debilitating for people across the country, children are especially at risk of developing long-term damage and other complications from brain trauma. Children’s brains are continually developing, and further development may be affected by brain trauma depending on the severity of the injury, as well as what part of the brain is injured. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 800,000 kids visit emergency rooms seeking treatment for traumatic brain injuries every year. It is only just recently, however, that the CDC came up with guidelines providers can follow regarding diagnosis and treatment of TBI in children.

Under the new guidelines, physicians are able to look at evidence-based scales showing symptoms in order to diagnose children with traumatic brain injuries. Physicians can use these symptoms to determine whether they should order CT scans, as performing screenings increases children’s’ risk of developing cancer. Physicians are given guidelines regarding counseling parents of children who have been diagnosed with TBI. Experts suggest patients return to performing regular activities after no more than two or three days of rest following a brain injury. This excludes returning to sports, as patients should allow a longer rest period before engaging in these types of activities.

Pancreatic cancer: A deadly disease

Misdiagnosis can prove to be deadly to those who have had the misfortune of experiencing it. When a physician gives a patient the wrong diagnosis, the actual disease or condition is given addition time to spread or worsen. This is the case for cancer patients who have been misdiagnosed or who have had a physician fail to provide a diagnosis at all.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, as it takes the lives of 44,330 people annually, according to the American Cancer Society. It is so deadly in fact, that approximately 95 percent of people who are diagnosed with the disease will die. One of the main reasons why this form of cancer takes so many lives is because there are little to no symptoms during the initial stages. Not only does the lack of symptoms make it hard to identify, there are currently no screening methods available to detect pancreatic cancer. Once the cancer hits stage three, patients may start to experience jaundice and/or stomach pain. By that point, it may be too late. Tumors discovered during advanced stages have a greater chance of reoccurring and, in some cases, may spread to other surrounding organs, including the liver.

Do medical instruments get left behind?

Every year, thousands of Americans enter operating rooms in hospitals and outpatient clinics across the country. If you have gone into an operating room for a surgical procedure, you know how it feels to place your life in the hands of medical professionals. You may trust that they have the education and knowledge necessary to accurate perform your procedure and help you through the healing process. Surprisingly, surgeons and surgical staff make a number of errors in the operating room, pointing to gross medical negligence. This involves leaving foreign objects behind in patients’ surgical sites. These mistakes are often called ‘never-events’ because they should never happen if proper protocol and procedures are followed.

According to the medical journal Surgery, more than 80,000 never events occurred in U.S. hospitals within a 20-year period. John Hopkins University found that these acts of negligence occur 4,000 times every year. Approximately 39 times every week, surgeons and OR staff leave surgical instruments behind. The most common piece of equipment left behind are surgical sponges, which are used to soak up blood and fluids within the operating site. Once the sponges become saturated, they tend to blend into their surroundings.

Mild brain injuries can cause serious problems

Traumatic brain injuries are more common in the United States than some people may think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, brain injuries are involved in approximately 30 percent of injury deaths in the country. Not all brain injuries lead to death, however. A number of mild brain injuries can cause significant problems and impairment. Yet many people are not aware that these problems stem from an actual brain injury, as mild brain trauma was previously hard to detect using traditional brain scans. Once diagnosed, people who suffer from mild brain injuries may be able to improve their condition through rehabilitation and different forms of therapy.

The human brain is freely suspended in a fluid that protects it from damage. Brain injuries occur when a sudden jolt to the head causes the brain to smash into the skull bone or when the brain is pierced by a foreign object. The degree of brain injury depends on the force of impact, as well as the area of the brain that is damaged. Some people may walk away from an accident not knowing that they have a mild brain injury, but they may exhibit symptoms of mild brain injury. These include the following:

  • Persistent headaches that may increase in intensity.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Tingling in the extremities.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Mild memory loss, disorientation or confusion.

The new superbug yeast that acts like bacteria

At the Law Office of JoJene E. Mills, PC, in Arizona, we help people who suffer the ill effects of medical malpractice. We therefore thought we should warn you about a new superbug that is spreading around the world. As Wired.com reports, Candida auris is a superbug yeast that first appeared on epidemiologists’ radar in 2009 when a 70-year-old Tokyo hospital patient developed a stubborn ear infection that turned out to be a new type of yeast infection. At about the same time, two South Korean patients ultimately died when the new yeast invaded their bloodstreams.

Since then, various strains of Candida auris have spread around the world. Today it appears not only in Brazil, India, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, South Africa, South Korea and Spain, but 11 U.S. states have recorded a combined 340 cases of it. This new superbug is unlike anything epidemiologists have ever seen before. Yeasts normally establish themselves in the warm, damp spaces of your body, lying dormant until a triggering event causes them to surge forth. Yeasts likewise only infect you if you carry them. They do not infect the people with whom you come into contact.