When Pneumonia Is Misdiagnosed

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2016 | Medical Malpractice

What Is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is a dangerous infection that inflames the air sacs in your lungs. The infection can stem from bacteria, viruses, or fungi, and should always be considered serious.

Who’s at Risk for Pneumonia Complications?

Children, the elderly, and immunocompromised adults are at highest risk for serious complications from pneumonia. In some of those cases, a pneumonia infection may even prove fatal. For most adults, though, pneumonia will clear up with proper care.

That proper care doesn’t come, though, when doctors miss the pneumonia diagnosis in the first place. It happens more often than you might think.

In fact, pneumonia is misdiagnosed at an alarming rate in this country, even among patients who are readmitted to the hospital after suffering from pneumonia in the recent past.

The fact that doctors have such a hard time identifying pneumonia should put anyone with possible symptoms on alert: the diagnosis the doctor gave you might not be correct.

Why Is Pneumonia Commonly Misdiagnosed?

Misdiagnosis of pneumonia may take one of two forms:

  • The doctor diagnoses you with a different, less serious condition, leading to worsened infection in the absence of treatment.
  • The doctor diagnoses you with pneumonia when, in fact, you have something more serious than pneumonia. Here again, the result is that you miss out on the treatment you really need.

In either event, the doctor may be liable for the mistake.

Misdiagnosis of pneumonia are so common because the symptoms are similar to a wide range of other illnesses, many of them less serious in nature. In today’s medical climate, doctors and hospitals are in a hurry to see as many as patients as possible — especially during the winter months, when respiratory conditions rear their ugly heads.

If doctors and nurses rush their patients through an examination, they are more likely to miss the subtle signs that might pinpoint pneumonia. They’re also less likely to order all of the necessary tests to arrive at an accurate diagnosis to the exclusion of all others.

Winter Is a Common Time When Pneumonia May Be Misdiagnosed

Because respiratory illnesses are more common in the winter, and because pneumonia mimics many of those same conditions, an errant pneumonia diagnosis is, even more, likely during this time of year.

Conditions Commonly Confused with Pneumonia

Medical conditions that are commonly confused with pneumonia — even by doctors — include:

  • Common cold
  • Sinus infection & other sinus conditions
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Bronchitis / Bronchiolitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Acute respiratory failure
  • Adult respiratory distress syndrome
  • Sepsis
  • Other bacterial infections
  • Lung cancer
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Heart attack
  • Pericarditis
  • Myocarditis
  • Pleurisy
  • Tuberculosis
  • Legionnaire’s disease
  • Measles
  • More

Additionally, your doctors may assume you have a straightforward case of pneumonia when, in fact, you have a rare, serious, or recurrent form. These differential iterations of pneumonia might include:

  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP)
  • Extrinsic allergic alveolitis (EAA)
  • Bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia (BOOP)
  • Eosinophilic pneumonia (EP)
  • Mycobacterium avium (M. avium infection)

Talk to Our Miami Medical Malpractice Attorneys

Kaire & Heffernan, LLC is an experienced Miami medical malpractice law firm with extensive experience in failure to diagnose cases. If you or someone you love has suffered illness, injury, or death as a result of a mistaken pneumonia diagnosis, our office can help. Please contact us to get started with a free case review right away.

Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 15 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for 4 years.