Are concussion misdiagnoses common in emergency departments?

An injury that requires a trip to the emergency room is likely serious and quite concerning. When an emergency or urgent care staff fails to correctly diagnose your condition, it can lead to worsening symptoms and dramatic changes. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for an emergency room or emergency department (ED) staff to miss a concussion diagnosis that is associated with head trauma.

A study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine demonstrates that misdiagnosis of concussion in adults is somewhat common in the ED. For the study, investigators identified 250 adult patients who met the World Health Organization's concussion criteria. These individuals were seen at one academic and two community emergency departments.

Data were collected through a patient-focused structured interview and a physician-facing questionnaire. Additionally, the investigators assessed the patients' symptoms at 30 days and 90 days following admission to the ED.

According to the data collected, approximately 16 percent of head injuries that met the World Health Organization's concussion criteria did not result in a concussion diagnosis. The study found that there are numerous reasons why a diagnosis might be delayed or missed altogether.

  • Longer length of ED stay.
  • Involvement in a motor vehicle collision
  • Variation in physician experience and practice

Concussion symptoms can be debilitating and life-changing. Many sufferers find it difficult to lead a normal life while struggling with persistent headaches, personality changes, mood swings, blurred vision, memory loss and a host of other conditions. If you or a loved one suffered a delayed, incorrect or missed diagnosis due to medical negligence, it is important to discuss your options with a skilled legal professional.

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