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More Than Half of Pediatricians Make Diagnostic Errors: Survey
Date:6/21/2010

The most common was mistaking viral for bacterial infections, review found

MONDAY, June 21 (HealthDay News) -- You're not the only one who can't always tell if your child has a viral illness or a bacterial infection that calls for antibiotics: Pediatricians say this is the most common diagnostic error they make, a new study shows.

Other common missed or mistaken diagnoses include those involving medication side effects, psychiatric disorders, appendicitis, asthma and ear infections, according to the study.

Researchers surveyed more than 700 pediatricians and pediatric trainees (residents and fellows), and found that more than half reported misdiagnosing a child once or twice a month. That included about 77 percent of the pediatric trainees.

Nearly half said that once or twice a year, those misdiagnoses were significant enough to cause harm.

Researchers did not ask the extent of the harm, however, and said they didn't have enough information to gauge the seriousness of it. But previous research cited in the study shows that 32 percent of pediatric malpractice claims are due to diagnostic errors.

"These are perceptions and much more research has to be done to really delineate how often this happens," said senior study author Dr. Geeta Singhal, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. The research is published in the July issue of Pediatrics.

The survey was conducted among pediatricians at three sites in Cincinnati and Houston. Diagnostic errors include those that are delayed, wrong or missed.

Pediatricians most often cited a failure to gather information through medical history, exam or chart review as the cause of errors. Other causes of misdiagnoses included failure of parents to seek care for their child in a timely manner, failure to follow-up on abnormal lab tests and parents ignoring follow-up recommendations.

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