Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a life-threatening condition where a blood clot forms in the lungs. It blocks the blood flow which may cause serious harm. Patients with PE often exhibit sudden shortness of breath, chest pain or a rapid heartbeat. While these symptoms should raise concern, they can sometimes be confused with less severe ailments, leading to misdiagnosis.

Misdiagnosis of pulmonary embolism

Misinterpreting or overlooking PE symptoms can happen for several reasons. Examples include:

  • Diagnosing PE in patients with no known risk factors can be challenging
  • PE may be present with unusual or atypical symptoms that do not fit the typical clinical picture
  • Limited access to advanced diagnostic tools
  • Incomplete patient history
  • Misinterpretation of test results
  • Overreliance on initial assessment

However, one of the main factors is the similarity of PE symptoms to other less severe conditions, such as pneumonia or anxiety attacks. Unfortunately, this can lead to health care providers treating the patient for the wrong ailment, delaying proper care and worsening the PE.

Severe complications

Failure to diagnose PE can lead to severe complications. Examples include long-term disability, organ damage or even death. Besides the physical impact on the patient, the emotional toll on their family can be devastating. The resulting pain and suffering can further compound a medical malpractice claim.

A health care professional’s negligence can significantly affect a patient’s life. If they fail to provide the standard level of care, they may be sued for medical malpractice. The law may hold them legally responsible for the consequences.

To avoid medical malpractice suits and ensure patient safety, health care providers must remain vigilant when evaluating patients with symptoms suggestive of PE. They must assess medical history thoroughly and order appropriate tests promptly. They must consider all potential diagnoses to reduce the risk of misdiagnosis.