Common Issues in Diagnosing Pancreatitis

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Whether acute or chronic pancreatitis occurs, it must be diagnosed and properly treated right away to avoid severe consequences.

New Jersey Lawyers Representing Victims of Pancreatitis Malpractice

The pancreas is one of the chief regulators of digestion and blood sugar in the human body. Located on the body’s left side, behind the stomach and near the small intestine, the pancreas makes enzymes and hormones that break down food in the small intestine and controls blood sugar by pumping insulin into the bloodstream. When the pancreas becomes red and swollen from attacking enzymes and gastric juices, the condition is known as pancreatitis. Symptoms may seem like other common illnesses, such as stomach aches, food poisoning, gallstones, or viruses. Thus, you need a competent doctor to diagnose the condition before it gets worse or even deadly.

If you or a loved one suffered complications due to a doctor’s failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, or improper treatment of pancreatitis, it is crucial to speak with a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer about the legal channels that you may have for seeking compensation. The accomplished New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group have all of the insight, investigative techniques, connections with experts, and background concentrating on medical negligence claims that you want on your side. We will provide you with a free case review and if we take your case, will tirelessly pursue optimal compensation. Contact us at 973-435-4551 or online to discuss your case.  

Top Risk Factors for Pancreatitis

Genetics, lifestyle, and other factors can cause digestive system disease. The most common reason for pancreatitis is excessive alcohol consumption. Blocked gallbladder ducts from gallstones can also clog the pancreas, preventing it from releasing enzymes and insulin. However, smoking, tumors, pancreatic malformations, surgery, high fat and calcium in the blood, diabetes, obesity, medications, infections, trauma to the belly, and cystic fibrosis, among other genetic disorders, can contribute to pancreatitis.

Key Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatitis

You may be signaled that you have pancreatitis when you experience extreme stomach pain that radiates to the chest and back and swelling and tenderness in the belly. You may also experience nausea, vomiting, chills, fever, low blood pressure, jaundice, weight loss, and accelerated heart rate. However, symptoms may look different from person to person. How quickly the onset of symptoms occurs indicates whether you have acute or chronic pancreatitis.

Different Types of Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis is a short-lived inflammation attack that goes away but can lead to permanent damage or death. On the other hand, chronic pancreatitis is a long-term condition of bouts of inflammation that cause permanent damage over time, leaving scar tissue and loss of function. The pancreas stops producing hormones and enzymes in severe cases over time.

Diagnostic Procedures for Pancreatitis

As a matter of course, your doctor should look over your medical records to check your health history and perform a physical exam, after which they will order blood tests and scans. At the testing lab or hospital, technicians may conduct stomach X-rays, ultrasound, endoscopic ultrasound (scope through the mouth to see internal organs, tissue, and bones), endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERC) to x-ray the pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts and scope the stomach and intestine. They may also perform a CT scan or magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRC) using dye to take pictures of the pancreas and surrounding organs.

Possible Complications from Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose Pancreatitis

Following standard protocols, doctors can diagnose pancreatitis and treat the condition with fluids, rest, medication, monitoring, and surgery in severe cases. However, misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis (failing to diagnose) can lead to unnecessary harm and suffering. When a physician incorrectly diagnoses a patient with pancreatitis symptoms or fails to diagnose them at all, they risk the patient’s life. Untreated pancreatitis may cause a patient to develop a life-threatening infection or organ failure, either of which could lead to wrongful death.  

Improper diagnosis often occurs when physicians do not follow standard or thorough practices for diagnosing the condition. They may not review a patient’s record or order the appropriate tests before concluding that gallstones or other illnesses are responsible for their symptoms. Furthermore, thorough testing can pinpoint the proper treatment. So, ordering blood tests may indicate a pancreas problem, but further testing with sonograms or more advanced scans can discern the extent of damage and involvement with other organs.

A physician who does not thoroughly explore the patient’s condition to reach an accurate diagnosis can cause the patient unnecessary surgeries or even death. A missed diagnosis causes treatment delays that worsen a patient’s condition, potentially leaving life-long digestive and other debilitating conditions. When a physician fails to diagnose pancreatitis and sends a patient home with pain medications or prescribes over-the-counter indigestion medication without further testing, the consequences can turn fatal.

A pancreatitis patient whose diagnosis comes late may develop chronic pancreatitis, diabetes, and pancreatic cancer. Even when pancreatitis is the diagnosis, the proper tests can show the extent of the organ damage and prevent a patient’s death.

Examining a Case of Pancreatitis Malpractice

A case that went before the Dallas Court of Appeals, Harsha Aramada, MD, Tomi Ola-Peters, MD, Uzoeshi Anukam, MD, Sado Al Bita, MD, Saurabh Patel, MD, and Chandand Koduro, MD v. Yates No. 05-20-00960, involved a patient who died when the treating physicians did not order the proper tests to detect necrotizing pancreatitis. The patient’s pancreatic tissue was dying, meaning the patient was in danger of losing his pancreas. 

The physicians chose to run an X-ray and CT scan without dyes to show contrast. As such, they missed the extent of the pancreatic damage, therefore misdiagnosing acute pancreatitis for the accurate diagnoses, necrotizing pancreatitis with lung damage. Had they correctly diagnosed the patient, he would not have been released from the hospital to a long-term facility, where he died immediately of a heart attack

Rights of Pancreatitis Malpractice Victims and their Families

Unfortunately, severe injuries and wrongful death frequently occur as a result of medical professional negligence. Often, the proof in a wrongful death case comes from an autopsy when the actual cause of death differs from the physician’s diagnosis or lack of a diagnosis. Nevertheless, the loved ones of a victim of wrongful death can file a claim against healthcare deliverers who commit medical malpractice.

For individuals who suffer unnecessary pain, suffering, and financial burdens due to a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis of pancreatitis in New Jersey, you may be eligible to file a claim against negligent physicians and facilities for the damages they caused through their negligence. You may file a medical malpractice claim when you discover that failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis worsened your condition or left permanent injury to your organs. For example, might have had acute pancreatitis that was not diagnosed and went away. However, a subsequent attack of pancreatitis was may have been diagnosed correctly by another physician who treated you and discovered grave damage to your pancreas and neighboring organs. 

Talk to a Seasoned New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyer about Your Pancreatitis Case

Medical malpractice actions are often technical and highly complicated, with medical experts weighing on both sides. It takes a skilled attorney fluent in medical terminology and practices to handle your claim for damages. Your attorney must demonstrate that the physician or medical provider(s) handling your case breached their duty, amounting to negligence, that caused you damages. In other words, they failed to follow standard protocol to treat your pancreatitis, and, as a result, you suffered short-term and long-term economic and emotional damages. 

At Fronzuto Law Group, our skilled medical malpractice lawyers can investigate your pancreatitis case and identify the sequence of events that constitute negligence. For instance, we may determine how the second physician’s diagnosis and treatment are evidence of the first physician’s medical malpractice. We may consult with an independent medical expert on pancreatic diagnosis and treatment and use their knowledge to attest to the the initial doctor’s negligence. A medical expert’s opinion that a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis of pancreatitis constituted medical malpractice is essential to support your claim. Our legal team is fully equipped to construct the most compelling claim on your behalf or the behalf of your lost loved one. Contact us at 973-435-4551 for a free consultation today.

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