Why doctors often fail to diagnose appendicitis

Written by
Abraham Jaros
Updated on Tuesday, Oct 24, 2023

You go to the doctor because you’re having a lot of pain in your abdomen. Your doctor tells you it’s all right, that it’s probably just gas and an upset stomach, and tells you to take some over-the-counter medications.

It turns out that you really have appendicitis. You get treatment, but it turns into an emergency operation with a very real chance of serious injury or even death. Why did your doctor make the wrong diagnosis?

Appendicitis is one of many ailments that medical professionals often miss. There are a few reasons for it, including:

  • Not everyone’s appendix faces the same way. Most face forward, but some face back. In those facing back, symptoms are still there, but the location appears “wrong" for appendicitis.
  • Symptoms aren’t exactly the same for everyone. The most common are tenderness and pain, nausea and a fever. But not everyone has all of the symptoms or experiences them to the same degree.
  • People actually feel better after the appendix ruptures, in many cases. The pain fades. Patients and doctors may not realize that the person is actually in more danger now than they were when they had a higher level of pain.
  • Advanced symptoms of infection after the rupture don’t always show up right away. It could be days or weeks, even though the person’s life could be in danger. This can delay the diagnosis.

When a doctor makes an incorrect diagnosis or says you’re fine when you’re not, it can lead to serious complications and rising costs. Be sure you know all of the legal options you have if this happens.

Source: CNN, “15 diseases doctors often get wrong," Amanda MacMillan, accessed Nov. 29, 2017

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