Medical Malpractice

Failure to Diagnose Appendicitis

Failure to detect and treat appendicitis is the third most frequent type of failure to diagnose medical malpractice cases after heart attacks and breast cancer. Appendicitis attacks can be acute (surgery is immediately necessary) or chronic (may be treated with drugs). While appendicitis is a treatable disease, it becomes highly complicated if left undetected and untreated. An untreated appendicitis may result in a ruptured appendix which may fill the body cavity other surrounding organs with toxic substances. A ruptured appendix can result in peritonitis and sepsis, a life threatening condition.

Therefore, it’s critical doctors, nurses, and medical personnel listen to the patient and respond to the symptoms appropriately. A patient presenting with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, especially pain in the lower right abdomen should be recognized as potential symptoms of appendicitis. Severe pain present in the lower right abdomen where the appendix is located is an important indicator. This area, known as McBurney’s Point, is where the appendix is located. However, some patients suffering from appendicitis may experience pain in other areas of the abdomen, especially in earlier stages of appendicitis. Careful attention to the details of the physical examination is crucial to correctly diagnose appendicitis.

The most common errors healthcare professionals make in diagnosing and treating appendicitis are the following:
1) failure to administer a proper physical exam of the abdomen to locate and measure the pain,
2) inadequate follow-up care,
3) misdiagnosis of appendicitis for kidney stones, irritable bowel syndrome, or many other digestive disorders such as colitis, and
4) failure to intervene surgically when the patient’s condition deteriorates.

These medical errors in treating appendicitis can be severe and life-threatening. An initial medical error in the correct diagnosis of appendicitis can lead to multiple follow-up surgeries that pose further risk and harm to the patient.

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