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What is a differential diagnosis?

| Mar 17, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

Going to the doctor can be a hassle for a Maryland resident. They usually do not make appointments with their physicians until they feel unwell, and then they must answer a barrage of questions from their nurses, doctors, and other practitioners just to get to the right treatment for their malady. In many cases, a trip to the doctor results in a medication or protocol to improve the patient’s health. However, in some situations, doctors may fail to properly assess and treat their patients’ needs.

This post will introduce readers to the differential diagnosis process for evaluating and treating patients. No medical or legal advice is offered in this article. Readers who believe that their doctors may have erred in the use of, or failure to use, the differential diagnosis process may wish to explore their possible claims with the help of medical malpractice attorneys.

What is a differential diagnosis?

Illnesses do not always have diverse symptoms. For example, a sore throat may be a sign of a common cold, strep throat, or a more serious cause like cancer. When a doctor initially encounters a patient with a generic symptom like a sore throat, they will have to investigate to fully understand the cause of their patient’s suffering.

This is where the differential diagnosis process comes in. A doctor will ask their patient about their current ailments as well as their medical history. They will consider what is in their family history and will order tests and evaluations to rule out possible causes of their suffering. They will use all of the information that they collect to decide the most likely cause of their patient’s poor health and will base their treatment on that outcome.

Why differential diagnoses are important

Though it can sometimes feel overwhelming to answer many questions while feeling unwell, the differential diagnosis process is important. It helps doctors rule out unlikely medical problems and hone in on likely causes of pain, sickness, and discomfort. It requires doctors to take a comprehensive approach to treating their patients and to consider all possible avenues to ensure that their medical problems are properly addressed.

When a doctor skips differential diagnoses and jumps straight to a diagnosis, they may miss important questions, tests, and information in truly understanding their patient’s ailment. They may give their patient a misdiagnosis and leave them without the tools to heal. Misdiagnoses can lead to serious medical problems and complications, and victims who suffer them may have rights to pursue their losses.

 

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