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Misleading results behind some high blood pressure diagnoses

North Carolina physicians will monitor a patient's blood pressure because elevated levels could lead to heart attacks and strokes. Blood pressure readings, however, could be inaccurate or incomplete, especially when obtained with manual devices. A professor of medicine from the Université de Montréal explained that a proper measurement of blood pressure required 12 to 15 minutes, which does not fit into the usual 10-minute appointments scheduled by general practitioners.

According to guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the reading taken at the beginning of an appointment represents an initial blood pressure screening. When an elevated reading appears, clinicians should perform more thorough screenings before making a diagnosis of high blood pressure.

Other issues could also contribute to inaccurate measurements. A poorly fitted cuff on the arm could skew results, and the anxiety of a patient commonly produces high readings. Automated blood pressure machines that take multiple readings and can be left on a patient who is alone contribute to results of greater accuracy. Due to the prevalence of inaccurate blood pressure measurements, one study found that 20 percent of patients received unnecessary treatments for hypertension. Taking medicine for a misdiagnosed condition exposes people to drug side effects as well as higher medical bills.

In some cases, a misdiagnosis might support a legal claim of medical malpractice. A person who believes that physician or hospital negligence prevented proper care could ask an attorney to investigate the possibility of filing a lawsuit. An attorney could consult an independent medical expert and possibly gain testimony that explains the nature of the substandard care and how it harmed the client.

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Daniel Pleasant Holoman LLP

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