Diagnostic Errors Common in Pediatric Practices

Doctor holds a stethscope

Diagnostic errors are common in pediatric practices with rates as high as 62% in some areas of practice.

Pediatric Diagnostic Errors

According to recent studies in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, diagnostic errors commonly occur within the practice of pediatric medicine. Pediatricians report making diagnostic errors, missed diagnoses, and improper treatments frequently on pediatric patients that result in some type of harm to the children.

Over 54% of licensed, practicing pediatricians report making diagnostic errors at least once or twice per month. In pediatric assistants and doctors in training, error rates jump to 77%. About 45% of pediatricians studied report making diagnostic errors that result in harm to a patient at least once or twice each year. The most common errors in pediatric patients included missed or inaccurate diagnosis for the following conditions:

  • Viral and bacterial illnesses
  • Appendicitis
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Side effects from medications
  • Faulty or inaccurate lab results

Common factors in pediatric diagnostic errors include failure to gather information about patient history; failure to review a patient’s chart; poor evaluation through a proper physical examination; and lack of adequate patient care coordination by team members. Pediatricians ranked access to electronic health records and close follow-up of patients as strategies most likely to be effective in preventing diagnostic errors.

Pediatricians acknowledge that diagnosing children can be more challenging than diagnosing adults since children are often not able to describe their symptoms. Diagnostic errors in newborns can lead to birth injuries. Young children who are less verbal are not able to explain how they are feeling in words and don’t understand the significance of illness or pain. In many cases, parents may not recognize signs of illness until a child becomes notably lethargic or ill with a fever, rash, runny nose, or other visible symptoms.

Medical research suggests that approximately 36% to 42% of children may suffer injuries because physicians fail to diagnose their conditions correctly. It’s estimated that 2% to 3% of hospitalized children will experience diagnostic errors that may lead to injury and medical malpractice claims. Chicago medical malpractice lawyers handle many medical malpractice lawsuits that arise out of diagnostic errors and medical mistakes that could have been prevented. Diagnostic errors can harm patients who receive the wrong treatment based on errors and delay life-saving treatment for patients with acute conditions.


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