Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Misdiagnosis of multiple sclerosis is costing health system millions per year

Date:
May 9, 2012
Source:
Oregon Health & Science University
Summary:
It is relatively common for doctors to diagnose someone with multiple sclerosis when the patient doesn't have the disease -- a misdiagnosis that not only causes patients potential harm but costs the US health care system untold millions of dollars a year, according to a new study.

It is relatively common for doctors to diagnose someone with multiple sclerosis when the patient doesn't have the disease -- a misdiagnosis that not only causes patients potential harm but costs the U.S. health care system untold millions of dollars a year, according to a study recently published online in the journal Neurology.

The study is based on a survey of 122 multiple sclerosis specialists nationwide and was conducted by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Neurology is the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The survey found that all but six of the multiple sclerosis specialists -- more than 95 percent -- had seen at least one patient within the past year who had been diagnosed with MS by another medical provider, but the MS specialist "strongly felt [the patient] did not in fact have MS."

Almost three-quarters of the MS specialists said they had seen at least three patients within the past year who they believe had been misdiagnosed. More than one-third of respondents said they had seen six or more patients within the past year who had been misdiagnosed. In total, the study estimated that the 122 MS specialists had seen almost 600 patients within the past year who had been misdiagnosed with MS.

Many of the MS specialists said a significant percentage of these misdiagnosed patients had already begun disease-modifying therapy for MS, which carries potentially serious side effects and can be very expensive, often at least $40,000 per patient per year. Based on the responses from the MS specialists, the study estimated that the 122 MS specialists had seen approximately 280 patients who had been misdiagnosed and were receiving MS treatment -- costing the health system at least $11 million per year in unnecessary and inappropriate treatment for that group of patients alone.

"What we found was that the misdiagnosis of MS was common -- perhaps more so than previously thought. This has significant consequences for patients and for our health care system as a whole," said Andrew Solomon, M.D., the lead author of the study.

Solomon worked on the study while he was a post-doctoral fellow in multiple sclerosis at OHSU and at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Solomon is now an assistant professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine and is a member of the University of Vermont Medical Group Neurology Service at Fletcher Allen Health Care.

Dennis Bourdette, M.D., the senior author of the study and director of the OHSU Multiple Sclerosis Center, said the misdiagnoses not only meant patients were getting expensive and potentially harmful treatments they didn't need, but they were also not getting the appropriate treatment for the diseases they may have had.

"These patients were getting the wrong treatment -- and missing out on the correct treatment," Bourdette said.

The survey also detailed the emotional and ethical challenges of informing a patient of a misdiagnosis. More than two-thirds of the MS specialists said that informing a patient with a diagnosis of MS that they likely did not have the disease was more challenging than informing a patient of a new diagnosis of MS. And, in an especially surprising finding, about one in seven of the MS specialists said they had sometimes chosen not to inform a patient of their suspected misdiagnosis, citing among their reasons the fact that the patients were not receiving MS treatment, or the potential psychological harm in changing a diagnosis.

The study underlines a significant but underappreciated problem within the U.S. health care system: the dangers, costs and physician challenges associated with misdiagnosed diseases.

In recent years, medicine has begun paying more attention to medical errors and adverse medical events -- giving a patient the wrong drug or too much of it, for example, or not preventing avoidable infections. But less attention has been paid to the rate of diagnostic errors -- which experts estimate average about 10 percent across a wide variety of medical conditions.

Often, these diagnostic errors happen with diseases, like MS, "that don't have a definitive test," said Eran Klein, M.D., Ph.D., the third co-author of the study and an assistant professor in OHSU's Department of Neurology. "These diseases instead require well-honed skills of a professionally trained clinician who is knowledgeable about the disease, can study a patient's medical history, perform a detailed physical examination and evaluate additional medical information to make the proper diagnosis. This study sheds light on the importance of clinical expertise in recognizing and correcting diagnostic error."

The study was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health and the Partners MS Fellowship Award.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon Health & Science University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Andrew J. Solomon, Eran P. Klein, and Dennis Bourdette. “Undiagnosing” multiple sclerosis: The challenge of misdiagnosis in MS. Neurology, May 11, 2012 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318259e1b2

Cite This Page:

Oregon Health & Science University. "Misdiagnosis of multiple sclerosis is costing health system millions per year." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509180046.htm>.
Oregon Health & Science University. (2012, May 9). Misdiagnosis of multiple sclerosis is costing health system millions per year. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509180046.htm
Oregon Health & Science University. "Misdiagnosis of multiple sclerosis is costing health system millions per year." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120509180046.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

How 'Yes Means Yes' Defines Sexual Assault

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Aimed at reducing sexual assaults on college campuses, California has adopted a new law changing the standard of consent for sexual activity. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Scientists May Have Found An Early Sign Of Pancreatic Cancer

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) Researchers looked at 1,500 blood samples and determined people who developed pancreatic cancer had more branched chain amino acids. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

Colo. Doctors See Cluster of Enterovirus Cases

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

Dr.'s Unsure of Cause of Fast-Spreading Virus

AP (Sep. 29, 2014) Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Colorado say they have treated over 4,000 children with serious respiratory illnesses since August. Nine of the patients have shown distinct neurological symptoms, including limb weakness. (Sept. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins