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Misdiagnosis of Pulmonary Embolism Is Common and Could Be Considered Medical Malpractice

Patients can often suffer serious medical complications when a doctor misdiagnoses their medical condition. Unfortunately, failure to properly diagnose a pulmonary embolism is common and can cause a person to suffer catastrophic harm like damage to his heart and lungs or death.

A pulmonary embolism is a blockage of a pulmonary artery—a major artery in the lung—that is often caused by a blood clot. The severity of a pulmonary embolism will depend on the following:

  • The size of the blockage
  • The speed of diagnosis and treatment

The damage from pulmonary embolism increases with time, so misdiagnosis can significantly increase the danger to the patient. In severe cases, a pulmonary embolism can cut off the blood supply to a person’s lungs—with fatal results.

Three Common Conditions Doctors Confuse With Pulmonary Embolism

Patients who develop pulmonary embolism can exhibit a variety of symptoms. These can include the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Sharp chest pain when breathing
  • Coughing
  • Pain in the calf or thigh
  • Swelling of a calf or thigh

Unfortunately, patients with other medical conditions could also have these symptoms. This is why a doctor must quickly perform diagnostic tests to determine what the true problem is. In addition, he needs to be especially vigilant when treating patients at high risk for pulmonary embolism including patients experiencing the following:

  • Surgery lasting two hours or more
  • Long periods of immobility
  • Heart disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Cancer
  • Estrogen supplements

Because pulmonary embolism symptoms are similar to other medical conditions, a negligent doctor can easily misdiagnose it. Other medical conditions commonly confused with pulmonary embolism include:

  • Heart attack. Chest pain and shortness of breath are two of the symptoms suggesting a person is having a heart attack. However, a doctor can properly diagnose a pulmonary embolism instead by use of radiographic imagining.
  • Pneumonia. Pneumonia is often blamed when a person experiences fever, coughing, and heavy breathing. Again, a proper diagnosis can be made through radiographic imagining.
  • Lung cancer. While the symptoms of lung cancer are similar to pulmonary embolism, they tend to develop over time. Proper medical testing should be done immediately to rule this out.

If you developed pulmonary embolism that was misdiagnosed by your doctor, you could have a claim for medical malpractice. Fill out our online form to schedule a FREE consultation to learn about your legal options.