Misdiagnosis of Pneumonia

by | Mar 4, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

Pneumonia is such a well-known condition that you’d think doctors would catch it quickly. But the truth is that pneumonia often goes undiagnosed and untreated. If you suffered a serious complication or lost a loved one because of a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of pneumonia, call Menzer Law right away.  Matt Menzer has over 30 years of legal experience representing people in medical tort claims. He is passionate about holding medical and healthcare providers responsible for their negligent and harmful conduct.  Let Matt review your medical records and consult an expert to determine if your doctor failed to properly diagnose your pneumonia. If you have a valid medical malpractice case, he’ll guide you in filing a complaint with Hawaii’s Medical Inquiry and Conciliation Panel (MICP).

What Is Pneumonia?

According to the Mayo Clinic, pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in the lungs, causing the air sacs of the lungs to fill with fluid or pus. This fluid is what causes you to have trouble breathing, cough with phlegm, and experience fever and chills. Other symptoms include chest pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Seniors might experience lower body temperature and confusion.

How Did I Get Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is caused by many types of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The most common pneumonia-causing bacterium in the U.S. is Streptococcus pneumoniae. Another common bacterium is Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which causes a milder form of the condition commonly called Walking Pneumonia. You might have community-, hospital-, or healthcare-acquired  pneumonia:

  • Community-acquired pneumonia is when the bacterium, fungus, or virus is spread around a community, like at work or school.
  • Hospital-acquired pneumonia occurs when you stay at a hospital for another illness.
  • Healthcare-acquired pneumonia occurs in people who live in long-term care facilities and people who receive out-patient care.
  • Aspiration pneumonia occurs when you inhale food, a beverage, saliva, or vomit into your lungs.

How Does a Doctor Diagnose Pneumonia?

Pneumonia can be tough sometimes to diagnose because the symptoms vary and might look like a cold or the flu. But it’s important for a doctor to identify pneumonia for you to receive the appropriate treatment and avoid unnecessary and often serious complications. A doctor will first take an oral medical history. Knowing when and where you might have been exposed is important. Next, a doctor will conduct a physical exam.

This includes listening to your breathing with a stethoscope for abnormal bubbling or crackling sounds. Your doctor will run tests, which might include:

  • Chest X-ray, which shows the amount and location of inflammation in the lungs;
  • CT Scan, which offers a better view of the lungs;
  • Blood test, which confirms if you have an infection;
  • Pulse oximetry, which measures the amount of oxygen in your blood;
  • Arterial blood gas test, which is a more accurate measure of the oxygen in your blood;
  • Sputum test, which analyzes a sample of the mucus from a cough;
  • Pleural fluid culture, which analyzes the fluid surrounding your lungs; and
  • Bronchoscopy, which is used to look into your lungs’ airways for a blockage or take samples.

CT scans, arterial blood gas tests, pleural fluid cultures, and bronchoscopy are used in more serious circumstances, including when you are a high-risk patient due to age or health, are currently hospitalized, or your condition isn’t improving.

Can Pneumonia Be Misdiagnosed?

Yes, a negligent doctor might misdiagnose what is really pneumonia. The doctor might say you have the flu, a severe cold, acute bronchitis, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

What Happens if Pneumonia Is Left Untreated?

If your pneumonia is undiagnosed, you may suffer Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) or respiratory failure. When fluid builds up in the lungs, it keeps them from taking in enough air. This limits how much oxygen reaches your bloodstream, and your organs don’t receive enough oxygen to function.  Lung abscesses are less common but very serious when they happen. An abscess is when a pocket forms in or around the air sac and is filled with pus. This condition might require surgery.

Sepsis is a life-threatening reaction to an infection. Your body tries to fight the infection, but the chemicals the body uses can cause inflammation and damage your other organs. Sepsis can lead to septic shock, which has a 40 percent mortality rate, according to the Mayo Clinic. Pneumonia is a treatable condition, but if you aren’t diagnosed properly right away, it can cause long-term complications and become life-threatening.

Were You Told You Had Pneumonia When Something Else Was Wrong?

Another serious medical malpractice issue is when doctors diagnose you with pneumonia when you don’t have it. You might’ve been sent away with a round of antibiotics even though something more serious was going on. In some cases, lung cancer is misdiagnosed as pneumonia, delaying the proper treatments.

Moving Forward with a Medical Malpractice Claim in Hawaii

If you believe your pneumonia was misdiagnosed, talk with experienced medical malpractice lawyer Matt Menzer. It’s important to get legal assistance before rushing into a med mal suit. Hawaii requires you to follow a specific process.

You need to get a Certificate of Consultation. This certificate shows you’ve spoken with a medical expert—another doctor—and they agree you have a valid claim for medical negligence. Before you can file a lawsuit, you need to file a complaint with the MICP, which is a panel comprised of two lawyers and a doctor. The MICP process is a non-binding reconciliation process.

The panel reviews the evidence and offers an opinion about your case. If the negligent doctor or healthcare facility isn’t receptive to settling your claims for a fair amount, then we will file a medical malpractice lawsuit on your behalf. We aren’t afraid to go to court.

Contact Menzer Law in Wailuku, HI

Matt represents people harmed by medical negligence on Maui and all of the neighbor islands. Call 808-400-3726 to schedule your free consultation. Or you can submit your information through our online contact form. Don’t worry about upfront fees. Menzer Law works on a contingency fee basis. You only owe us a fee if we win compensation for you.