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Get a Second Opinion! Mayo Clinic Find Medical Diagnoses Almost Always Wrong or Incomplete

Jen Slack's picture
Wrgon Medical Diagnoses

Seems to me it used to be a common to say to someone with a medical diagnosis to "get a second opinion". It seems to me that this is really wise advice, especially with the startling findings from the Mayo Clinic, as well as other studies.


You may be familiar with the Mayo Clinic, based in Rochester, Minnesota, with affiliates and campuses in various other parts of the United States. Often regarded as one of the best hospitals and research facilities in the United States, it's huge, employing more than 4500 physicians and scientists, and almost 60,000 allied health staff. The hospital specializes in tertiary care, or referrals, who are known as difficult cases to treat or diagnose.

The Mayo Clinic Study

According to this Mayo Clinics study, the first medical diagnoses is often either incomplete or just incorrect.

Twenty one percent of medical diagnosis totally wrong

In 21 percent of almost 300 patients studied in total, the medical institute offered a completely different diagnosis that the original.

As well, in 66 percent of the case, the diagnosis was refined or extended.

That leaves a remaining percentage, a mere 13 percent, where the initial diagnoses remained correct.

Granted, the referrals the Mayo clinic gets are ones with patients who have problems that are difficult to diagnose.

“Effective and efficient treatment depends on the right diagnosis,” says Dr. Naessensa, health care policy researcher at the Mayo Clinic, and lead researcher of the study. “Knowing that more than 1 out of every 5 referral patients may be completely [and] incorrectly diagnosed is troubling ─ not only because of the safety risks for these patients prior to correct diagnosis, but also because of the patients we assume are not being referred at all.”

Last updated in 2017, The US Department of Health and Human Services, web page on diagnostic errors, says this.

"The past decade's quest to improve patient safety has chiefly addressed quantifiable problems such as medication errors, health care–associated infections, and postsurgical complications. Diagnostic error has received comparatively less attention, despite the fact that landmark patient safety studies have consistently found that diagnostic error is common. In the Harvard Medical Practice Study, diagnostic error accounted for 17% of preventable errors in hospitalized patients, and a systematic review of autopsy studies covering four decades found that approximately 9% of patients experienced a major diagnostic error that went undetected while the patient was alive. Taken together, these studies imply that thousands of hospitalized patients die every year due to diagnostic errors."

12 Million adults misdiagnosed every year

Published in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety, another study, finds that 1 out of 20 adult patients are misdiagnosed, with half of the incorrect diagnosis having the potential to create severe harm.

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While previous studies normally focus on misdiagnosis of hospital patients, this one suggest a huge amount of misdiagnoses in out patient clinics and doctors offices.

CBS News Cief medical correspondent, Dr. Jon LaPook said this about the findings, "It's very serious. When you have numbers like 12 million Americans, it sounds like a lot -- and it is a lot. It represents about 5 percent of the outpatient encounters."

"Getting 95 percent right be good on a school history test, but it's not good enough for medicine, especially when lives are at stake."

He says that doctors need to take time to listen to their patients and talk to them. "Doctors' visits these days tend to be rushed," he says. "That's a big problem."

Half of diagnostic errors can potentially lead to severe harm

He continued, "Although it is unknown how many patients will be harmed from diagnostic errors, our previous work suggests that about one-half of diagnostic errors have the potential to lead to severe harm," write the authors in the study. "While this is only an estimate and does not imply all those affected will actually have harm, this risk potentially translates to about 6 million outpatients per year."

"As a physician, I'm listening for clues," LaPook explains. "Don't forget to share details of your family's medical history, such as a parent with cancer, which may be useful information for the doctor to take into consideration."

Patients should also follow up and make sure they get their test results. "Don't assume that if you don't hear anything it's good news," LaPook says. "No news is not necessarily good news."

"The art of medicine is trying to figure out which of these symptoms -- which 99 times out of 100 is something innocent, one time out of 100 turns out to be something serious," says LaPook. "That's the art of medicine. That's the tricky part."

In short, the findings of showed that the symptoms that seemed harmless that generally led to misdiagnosis, were were cough, abdominal pain and shortness of breath.

Did you know that abortion can lead to breast cancer?

Doctors are humans and prone to error. And errors occur.

Are you aware of a medical misdiagnosis of a serious disease of yourself or someone you know? If diagnosed with something serious, would you get a second opinion? Do you know of someone who got a second opinion only to discover the the first was incorrect?

Also, read here about 75 percent of doctors surveyed said they would refuse chemotherapy as a treatment.