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Rheumatology assessments may improve pulmonary disease diagnosis

Sep 20, 2018 | Failure to Diagnose

When it’s suspected that a New York patient has interstitial lung disease (ILD), diagnosis typically involves invasive techniques such as checking a tissue sample and performing a bronchoscopy with specialized instruments to view airways. According to a study specific to ILD and similar pulmonary conditions, routine rheumatology assessments may minimize the need for more invasive diagnostic procedures in some instances. Researchers also believe diagnosis accuracy may be improved with adjustments to testing processes.

With traditional methods, doctor misdiagnosis may occur partly because patients with ILD often have connective tissue disease (CTD), which can be a contributing factor to bronchiolitis and many other pulmonary conditions. The "gold standard" with ILD diagnosis is to make a determination based on a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach that includes input from several specialists. To further complicate matters, an additional variation of CTD-ILD with autoimmune features has been identified. This is why researchers are stressing the importance of added insights from rheumatologists.

For the study, 60 newly diagnosed ILD patients had an MDT evaluation followed by assessments from rheumatologists. The initial diagnosis for each patient was then revised, if necessary, based on what rheumatologists observed. Forty percent of the patients were eventually diagnosed with a rheumatology-related type of ILD. The initial multidisciplinary team approach did result in some notable misdiagnoses. For instance, three out of five cases of interstitial pneumonia with autoimmune features (IPAF) were incorrectly diagnosed. Misdiagnosis of ILD, CTD-ILD, and similar conditions may result in delayed treatment for patients or irreversible lung damage.

Should a misdiagnosis contribute to a worsened condition, an attorney can take steps to determine if medical negligence was involved. This process may involve looking at what tests were performed and what type of medical professionals assessed the patient. When considering legal options, a lawyer typically makes suggestions based on how a misdiagnosis may have affected a patient’s quality of life and their response to initial treatment efforts.