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Wrightsville Beach Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Road deaths fell but truck accident fatalities rose in 2017

Traffic accident fatalities in North Carolina and around the country rose alarmingly in both 2015 and 2016 after several years of steady decline, but data released recently by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that 2017 was a safer year on the nation's roads. Figures from the federal watchdog's Fatality Analysis Reporting System shows that road deaths fell by 1.8 percent in 2017, but the number of road users killed in accidents involving commercial vehicles surged by 9 percent from 4,369 to 4,761.

During an October 3 conference call, a senior figure at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration pointed out that many of the road users killed in truck accidents in 2017 lost their lives in crashes involving commercial vehicles weighing between 10,000 and 14,000 pounds. Accidents involving such vehicles doubled in 2017, according to the FARS data. This is important because trucks weighing 26,000 pounds or less are not always subject to regulations enforced by the FMCSA.

Patient and pharmacist cooperation can reduce medication errors

Millions of North Carolina residents rely on pharmacists to dispense prescribed medicine and to offer assist patients in using their medications safely. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology indicated that approximately 21 percent of medication errors that cause injury to patients are attributed to dispensing errors that occur at the pharmacy. These errors are common; however, there are multiple measures that pharmacists and patients can exercise to prevent these potentially costly mistakes.

As the last line of defense between pharmaceutical companies and patients, pharmacies are tasked with intercepting unsafe medications that may otherwise cause injury to patients. Specialized computer software, strategically organizing and storing medicines at the pharmacy, and matching each drug to a photo image prior to dispensing are all methods pharmacies use to keep patients safe.

About ovarian cancer

Every year, over 250,000 women in North Carolina and the rest of world receive a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Each year, 140,000 women will die from the disease. It is important that women do not mistake the early indications of ovarian cancer with medical issues that are less serious as doing so can lower their chances of having successful treatment.

Women who are experiencing symptoms such as belly pain, increased urination, indigestion or nausea, bloating, weight gain, shortness of breath or back pain for more than a week should speak with their physician as soon as possible. They should make sure that the physician verifies whether there are any issues with their ovaries.

Medical technologies raise new concerns about errors

According to researchers, medical errors of various types may be the third-leading cause of death in North Carolina and across the country. Various efforts to introduce artificial intelligence to the healthcare environment are often spurred on by an attempt to cut down on patient risks caused by human error. These machines often enjoy exceptional performance; one found in Oxford is reportedly capable of exceeding cardiologists' success rate in identifying a patient's risk of a potential heart attack.

Other types of artificial intelligence at use in the medical field include machines that diagnose skin cancer, identify a vision-threatening eye problem or recognize types of lung cancer. However, just as AI raises new potential for accuracy, it also raises new concerns about errors of a different type. Some medical mistakes may be caused by the machine or its algorithm rather than a specific physician or surgeon. It may not be immediately clear who is at fault if a machine fails to diagnose a patient or, in later iterations, improperly performs a surgery.

scans could lead to prosPET tate cancer misdiagnoses

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers experienced by men in North Carolina and across the country. In order to determine the stage the cancer has reached, doctors use a PET scan for prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA). PSMA is an enzyme that is found in prostate cancer cells and in areas where the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body. It is very expressive and responsive to imaging, making it a target for PET scans that determine the current stage of the disease.

However, researchers have noted that using PSMA PET scans on their own could potentially lead to misdiagnoses with serious results for patients. There are benign tissues in the body that can also show increased visibility of the enzyme without the cancer having metastasized. These include areas in the bowels, kidney and salivary glands, but they can be confused with lymph nodes to which the cancer has spread. If a patient is misdiagnosed as a result of the scan, he could be subjected to extra therapy that is unnecessary and even harmful.

Man claims doctor failed to diagnose his West Nile virus

North Carolina residents should know that in rare cases, the West Nile virus can cause the inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no specific vaccine or antiviral treatment to address or prevent West Nile, but those with a mild form of the virus can take over-the-counter medications or fever reducers.

Typical symptoms of West Nile virus include fever, headache, body aches, sleepiness and tremors. Four years ago, a Nebraska man was bitten on the leg by a mosquito while mowing his lawn and went to the doctor once he began to experience some of these symptoms. A neighbor had been diagnosed with West Nile, so he suspected that he had contracted it too. However, the doctor dismissed the symptoms and never tested the man's blood for the virus.

Many misdiagnoses are the result of cognitive errors

Some misdiagnoses that occur in emergency rooms in North Carolina may not be because of hospital processes but as a result of physicians' cognitive errors. Researchers conducted a study at an urban public hospital and found that 45 percent of the errors were the result of processing information wrong.

The study examined data over an eight-month period for patients who made a second visit to the emergency room in 72 hours and were admitted on that second visit. It identified 52 errors. Faulty verification was responsible for nearly one-third of all errors while 18 percent were because of faulty information gathering and 6 percent were because of knowledge errors.

Insurer says most radiology claims involve injury or death

Around 80 percent of radiology-related medical liability claims in North Carolina and elsewhere are due to misdiagnosis, according to a new study. Worse, over 80 percent of those misdiagnosis claims involve patients who have died or suffered a permanent injury.

The study was conducted by Coverys, a leading medical liability insurer. The company said that radiology errors are common and have the potential to cause severe harm to patients. In order to improve patient safety and reduce errors, researchers analyzed over 10,000 closed Coverys claims filed from 2013 to 2017, identifying the most common risk factors and safety issues. They discovered that around 15 percent of all diagnosis-related medical malpractice claims were filed against radiologists. Of those, 80 percent involved the misinterpretation of medical tests and over 80 percent involved permanent injuries or death. They found that cancer was the most commonly misdiagnosed disease, with breast, lung, pancreatic as well as ovarian cancers involved with the highest percentage claims.

Genetic tests reveal cause of seizure disorder in children

Early infantile epileptic encephalopathy is a neurological disorder occurring in 1.2 out of every 1,000 live births, and it is characterized by seizures that begin around the first few months of life. Children with EIEE experience developmental delays and impaired psychomotor learning. North Carolina residents should know that recent tests have uncovered the genetic cause behind this disorder.

Non-genetic causes of EIEE have long been known, such as structural brain malformations and birth injuries, but genetic ones were previously unidentified. Now, a team from University of Utah Health has been able to pinpoint some of these genetic causes with whole-genome sequencing.

Afternoon hospital visits can pose risk of errors

While people in North Carolina may expect to receive equally fine health care at any time of day, statistics show that going to the hospital in the afternoon may be riskier than at other times of the day. Normal bodily rhythms can often lead to a sluggish, slow feeling in the late afternoon. Productivity often drops in offices at around 3:00 p.m., and the same can be true for hospitals. Of course, the consequences can be much more severe when doctors and other medical professionals are too fatigued to exercise good judgment.

In one study of 90,000 hospital surgeries, anesthesiologists were found to be more likely to make errors during a procedure when it began in the mid-afternoon. While the risk of a mistake by an anesthesiologist was only 1 percent at 9:00 a.m., by 4:00 p.m. it had grown to 4.2 percent. The risk of these medical mistakes causing injury to patients also increased as the day went on. The researchers attributed the mistakes to natural afternoon lows, but the effects on patients of an anesthesiology mistake can be devastating.

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