Misdiagnosis can affect outcomes for unconscious people

by | Aug 27, 2018 | Firm News

When people in Ohio have loved ones struggling with brain injury and resulting minimally conscious or vegetative states, they may be interested in any possibility that could improve the likelihood of improvement. Accurate diagnosis and access to modern care based on science and evidence could make that possibility more likely. New guidelines for care in these cases were issued by several leading authorities, including the American Academy of Neurology, American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research.

The published guidelines note that around 4 out of every 10 people who are thought to be unconscious or in a vegetative state are, in reality, aware. In many cases, people face the risk of misdiagnosis because of a combination of factors and conditions that could hide the reality that a person is actually aware. Misdiagnosis in these cases can be significant, as inappropriate treatment and care decisions can be made when people are falsely believed to be unconscious. Family members may remove treatment and physicians may not recommend rehabilitation, leading to severely worsened health outcomes.

When people are conscious, they are awake and aware of themselves and able to use their senses. However, severe brain injuries like car crashes, falls and sports injuries can lead to disorders of consciousness. In case of such a disorder, a person has difficulties being awake, aware or both. When physicians seek to properly diagnose someone with a consciousness disorder, a careful early evaluation is necessary to make an accurate analysis.

Outcomes for people with this type of prolonged unconsciousness can vary widely, ranging from those who can return to work to those who will never regain consciousness. An inaccurate diagnosis or other doctor error could lead to severely worsened outcomes. People who have been affected by misdiagnosis or their families might work with a medical malpractice attorney to pursue compensation for their damages.