Abdominal pain is an extremely common symptom that may be indicative of a wide variety of conditions. In fact, between five and ten percent of the patients who enter emergency rooms cite abdominal pain as one of their symptoms. This can be problematic for patients who suffer from more acute and life-threatening conditions, such as appendicitis, because doctors may not immediately identify appendicitis as the underlying cause of their abdominal pain. In fact, misdiagnosis of appendicitis is among the most common medical malpractice claims brought against emergency room doctors in the United States. Unfortunately, failure to diagnose appendicitis and misdiagnosis of appendicitis can spell catastrophic consequences, as the appendix may burst, causing further complications such as infection and/or issues during surgery. In this article, we will examine common symptoms of appendicitis, ways in which appendicitis is diagnosed, conditions that present similar symptoms to appendicitis, and potential grounds for medical malpractice claims involving appendicitis in New Jersey.
Appendicitis Symptoms and Diagnosis
The appendix is a tube of tissue slightly longer than 3 inches, that is attached to the colon (large intestine). Currently, there is no medical consensus as to what the appendix actually does, but it is clear that people can survive without it. Appendicitis is a medical condition that occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed and it is classified as a medical emergency. When a patient suffers from appendicitis, his or her appendix must be surgically removed immediately. Otherwise, the appendix will rupture, exposing the abdomen to infection. An infection in the abdominal cavity can also result in peritonitis, a condition that involves inflammation of the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity) that may cause death if doctors do not immediately administer antibiotics.
Although the symptoms of appendicitis may vary from patient to patient, there are some very common symptoms that may indicate appendicitis, including:
- Abdominal pain: may be localized to the lower right quadrant of the abdomen or generalized to the entire abdominal area
- Loss of appetite
- General feelings of being unwell
There are a variety of diagnostic tools and procedures that can be used to confirm appendicitis. First, the doctor should complete a thorough physical examination and medical history. Patients with appendicitis may have an elevated temperature, abdominal tenderness, and any of the symptoms above. Physicians may also order a Complete Blood Count (CBC) to evaluate white blood cell levels. An elevated white blood cell count may indicate appendicitis. Further, there are several imaging tests that can be used to diagnose appendicitis, including abdominal X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds. Doctors who fail to comprehensively investigate a patient’s symptoms or fail to order necessary tests may misdiagnose appendicitis, placing the patient’s life in jeopardy.
Misdiagnosis of Appendicitis
As mentioned previously, appendicitis presents with generalized symptoms that may result from a vast array of underlying conditions. Some of the most common conditions that are misdiagnosed when, in fact, a patient is suffering from appendicitis include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Inflammatory diseases of the right upper abdomen: including gallbladder disease, liver disease, liver abscess, or a perforated ulcer
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Kidney disease
- Chrohn’s disease
Appendicitis and Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in New Jersey
If a doctor failed to diagnose appendicitis or misdiagnosed appendicitis as another condition and the patient suffered harm, the patient may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit in New Jersey. In order to successfully prove a medical malpractice case, the patient (and his or her attorneys) must demonstrate to the court that the doctor was negligent. Generally, negligence means that the medical professional deviated from, or failed to provide, the established standard of care. This may mean that a doctor failed to conduct a thorough physical examination or patient history, failed to order appropriate diagnostic tests, misread test results, misdiagnosed appendicitis as another condition, administered the wrong treatment, or another error. In order to identify the source of negligence and sufficiently support this contention in a court of law, medical malpractice attorneys and medical experts should conduct an exhaustive investigation of your case.
Our highly skilled medical malpractice lawyers aggressively advocate for victims of medical negligence across New Jersey. Whether you or someone you love suffered harm as a result of failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of appendicitis in a hospital emergency room, urgent care center, or another medical facility, we utilize our decades of experience, extensive resources, and relationships with leading medical experts to obtain maximum compensation. Our practice spans the state, including Bergen County, Essex County, Somerset County, and Middlesex County. We are available to provide cost-free initial consultations, to schedule an appointment at our offices in Passaic County, or to meet you at the location nearest you. Simply contact us today at 973-435-4551 to begin your conversation.