Most Commonly Misdiagnosed Illnesses & Conditions

Most Commonly Misdiagnosed Illnesses & Conditions

by / Monday, 15 February 2021 / Published in Medical Malpractice
Doctor speaking with woman who looks upset.

When people go to see a doctor, they trust that their doctor will be able to quickly figure out what the problem is and give you a correct diagnosis. But sometimes, doctors don’t get it right. In many cases, illnesses and medical conditions may have symptoms that are very similar to other conditions, so it’s far too common for doctors to diagnose patients incorrectly or take too long to reach the correct diagnosis.

Unfortunately, in many cases, incorrect and delayed diagnoses have very serious consequences for the patient. An incorrect diagnosis can lead to a patient receiving improper treatments, which not only prevents them from getting the treatments they actually need, some treatments can have their own negative side effects. And a delayed diagnosis means a condition has time to progress into something more serious than it should have.

It’s estimated that incorrect medical diagnoses cause 100,000 people in the United States to die or become permanently disabled every year. It’s one of the leading causes of medical malpractice cases. Some types of illnesses and medical conditions are diagnosed incorrectly more often than others. Three types of conditions are so commonly misdiagnosed that they’re labeled the “big three.”


It’s estimated that 37.8% of misdiagnoses that lead to death and disability involve cancer. When a patient has cancer, it’s particularly critical for it to be diagnosed as quickly as possible because delays can mean a case could go from being treatable to being something much worse. When cancer goes misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all, it’s often because doctors either fail to order a screening test that would’ve detected the cancer or the screening test was done incorrectly. Or, in some cases, cancer is found but is classified as the wrong type of cancer.

Vascular Problems

Whether it’s heart disease, a heart attack, a stroke, or pulmonary embolisms, vascular events account for approximately 22.8% of all misdiagnosis cases that lead to death or permanent disability. In the case of heart attacks, for example, not everybody experiences dramatic symptoms that make them collapse to the floor grasping their chest. Sometimes, people have milder heart attack symptoms that doctors write off as being caused by something else and never even test the patient for heart problems. Heart attacks are often mistakenly diagnosed as an anxiety attack, heartburn, or acid reflux.


In many cases, if a patient has an infection of some kind, it can be treated if it’s caught early enough. But if they’re not caught in time, they can potentially become fatal. Sepsis, spinal infections, pneumonia, meningitis, Lyme disease are some types of infections that commonly go misdiagnosed.

Get Help from a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Medical malpractice cases are devastating and they can be complicated to handle. Don’t try to handle it by yourself. If you or a loved one has suffered because of an incorrectly diagnosed infection or an infection that wasn’t diagnosed, contact a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we’re experienced in handling Michigan malpractice cases involving misdiagnosis and are ready to help you. Contact us today to get started.

Credit: iStock / KatarzynaBialasiewicz