Florida medical malpractice lawyer, Guy S. DiMartino, DC, JD discusses differential diagnosis and medical malpractice cases.
A differential diagnosis is a systematic diagnosis approach to work-up and diagnose a patient's medical condition. It is a process whereby the doctor or healthcare provider compiles a list of potential causes of the patient's complaints and symptom complex and works through the list to rule in or rule out problems.
Working through a differential diagnoses is a four step process
- The doctor or healthcare provider gathers information from the patient in the form of a history and makes a list of symptoms. The list can be in the healthcare providers head or she can write out the list.
- The doctor makes a list of possible conditions associated with the symptoms.
- The doctor will arrange the list with the most dangerous conditions at the top.
- The doctor will rule out the conditions on the list with physical examination, laboratory tests or diagnostic imaging.
An example of differential diagnosis in practice
- A 50 year old overweight man comes into the hospital with shortness of breath and chest pain.
- The list of conditions can include a pulled muscle, asthma, heart attack, indigestion, costochondritis, pulmonary embolism.
- Most urgent to least urgent condition: heart attack, pulmonary embolism, asthma, indigestion, costochondritis, pulled muscle
- Ruling out the most dangerous conditions: EKG and blood test for enzymes = heart attack; Blood test – Spiral CT scan = pulmonary embolism.If these tests were negative the provider may treat for asthma if physical exam findings warrant the diagnosis or the other conditions based on the exam findings
When healthcare providers fail to follow the differential diagnosis methodology, serious medical conditions slip through the cracks and patients are injured.
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