When a medical testing lab makes a mistake while analyzing a sample obtained from a patient with a potentially dangerous, if not fatal, condition, the results can be tragic.
A patient whose condition has been made worse as a result of a misdiagnosis due to a laboratory error may be able to seek compensation for the damages resulting from this misdiagnosis by filing a medical malpractice claim against the responsible healthcare professional, facility or business.
An Example of Laboratory Test Error: Uterine Cancer Misdiagnosis
Endometrial, or uterine, cancer is a serious, potentially fatal disease that occurs when the cells in the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium) begin to grow out of control. With around 60,000 new cases and 9,000 deaths each year, uterine cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive organs, according to the American Cancer Society.
The majority of women diagnosed with uterine cancers experienced abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as a change in their periods, bleeding between periods or bleeding after menopause. This is also a symptom of other types of non-cancerous conditions, which is why it’s important for a woman experiencing irregular bleeding to see a healthcare professional immediately, especially if they have already gone through menopause.
In addition to abnormal bleeding, other symptoms that can indicate uterine cancer include abnormal vaginal discharge, pelvis and back pain, bloating (which may indicate an abdominal mass) and rapid weight loss.
A Physical Exam Is Not Sufficient to Arrive at an Accurate Diagnosis
When a healthcare professional examines a patient exhibiting symptoms of uterine cancer it is important that the necessary tests are performed to confirm or refute their diagnosis. This usually begins with a physical exam and pelvic exam. This is usually followed up by a pelvic ultrasound, transvaginal ultrasound, or saline infusion ultrasound. A hysteroscopy can also be performed to detect the presence of cancer.
In many instances, a physical exam is not sufficient to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Tissue and blood sample testing are the only way to confirm that the disease is present. For uterine cancer, it is necessary to remove some tissue obtained through endometrial biopsy or by dilation and curettage (D&C) and subject it to laboratory analysis.
Cancer Screening Errors
Cancer is a serious, sometimes fatal disease. If a healthcare professional suspects a patient has uterine or some other form of cancer, it is critical that they corroborate their diagnosis by conducting the proper lab tests. One of the worst things that can happen to a cancer victim is to have their condition misdiagnosed during the early stages of the disease when treatments are most effective.
Over 7 billion lab tests are performed in the U.S. each year for everything from cancer screenings to paternity tests. A missed or delayed diagnosis due to an inaccurate lab test can be devastating for a patient, limiting treatment options and negatively impacting their chances for survival and recovery.
It’s not enough to order the proper lab tests; the healthcare professional has to ensure that there were no errors made during the analysis of the submitted samples.
Errors During the Lab Testing Process
Samples go through three stages of analysis: pre-analytical, analytical and post-analytical. Errors can occur at any point in the sample testing process:
Pre-analysis errors can include:
- Patient ID error
- Sample mislabeled
- Inappropriate specimen collection tube or container
- Specimen is lost
- Improper storage
Analytical errors include:
- Wrong test performed
- Test equipment not properly calibrated
- Improper measurement of specimens and/or reagents
- Reagents prepared or stored improperly
- Contaminated lab equipment
- Dilution and pipetting errors during analysis
Post-Analytical errors include:
- Improper data analysis
- Data omissions
- Transcription errors
- Report sent to wrong location or not sent at all
- Report is illegible
Misdiagnosis Can Have Tragic Consequences
What can happen if a laboratory test is wrong? Consider the previous example of a uterine cancer diagnosis.
One of the most common methods of treating this type of cancer is to perform a hysterectomy, which is a surgery to remove the uterus. If a physician believes the patient has endometrial cancer, an unnecessary hysterectomy may be performed before the correction can be made. This puts the patient at unnecessary risk, and makes it impossible for the patient to get pregnant.
In an even worse scenario, the lab tests fail to detect that the patient has uterine cancer. In such a case, the cancer may advance to the point where treatment is no longer possible.
Have You Been the Victim of a Laboratory Test Error?
If you suffered a misdiagnosis because of a laboratory test error, contact nationwide medical malpractice attorney Lisa Levine. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Lisa is a nationally recognized personal injury lawyer who has helped clients in Broward, Dade and Palm Beach counties as well as across the United States to recover the compensation they are owed for injuries caused by the negligent acts of doctors, nurses, medical technicians and other healthcare professionals. Call us today to schedule a free, no obligation consultation to discuss your case.