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Difference between misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis

On Behalf of | Jan 20, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice refers to a medical professional causing an error because of neglect or oversight. While many medical errors are unintentional, they may cause significant harm or death to patients in Georgia. Two types of medical malpractice errors involve patient diagnosis, and it’s important to understand the difference between misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis.


The law requires doctors to provide patients with a high standard of care, so patients expect to get proper diagnostics and treatment. When a patient gets diagnosed and treated for the wrong illness, it falls under misdiagnosis. Misdiagnosis occurs from the doctor misinterpreting a test result, not issuing further tests, not consulting medical history or not asking proper questions about symptoms.

Though no conclusive rates for misdiagnosis exists, some statistics estimate a 5% chance of errors, or 1 in 20 patients, and many illnesses and conditions have similar symptoms that make a misdiagnosis easy. Common conditions that get misdiagnosed include Parkinson’s disease, lupus, Lyme disease and heart attacks. A misdiagnosis can delay needed treatment for the actual illness.

Missed diagnosis

A missed diagnosis, or delayed diagnosis, occurs when the doctor fails to diagnose the patient, often clearing them of any condition. An example would be if a patient goes to the ER with potential heart attack symptoms but gets diagnosed with an anxiety attack and possibly given medication for that. Since the doctor concluded that the patient has no serious condition, they issue no additional tests.

Sometimes, delayed diagnosis results from a doctor not knowing the patient history or having a heavy workload that makes them rush. Conditions that commonly get a missed diagnosis include cancer, stroke, trauma injury and appendicitis.

Medical malpractice has the possible outcome of harm regardless of the type. However, medical errors do not always qualify for a medical malpractice lawsuit. A patient harmed by a misdiagnosis may want to hire an attorney to assess the validity of their case and help them gather evidence.