Appendicitis requires medical professionals to make a quick diagnosis. This is because treatment must be provided urgently; otherwise a patient may suffer a perforated appendix, which will lead to significant complications.
Why would there be a delay in diagnosing appendicitis?
Appendicitis does present in a very similar way to other, more minor conditions. However, this is not to say that medical professionals may be excused for failing to make a timely diagnosis. Rather, it is their duty to ensure that the correct diagnosis has been obtained.
Therefore when a patient complains of abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting and a fever, a doctor may make an initial diagnosis of a urinary tract infection. Steps must then be taken to ensure this is accurate, and to rule out differential diagnoses, including appendicitis.
An examination should be performed to assess whether or not there is tenderness in the right iliac fossa (where the appendix is situated). Blood and urine tests should also be carried out. If the results of these tests are not consistent with the initial diagnosis, medical professionals should alter their thinking and begin to consider the possibility of a different condition, such as appendicitis. Urgent investigations should be performed to affirm whether or not this correct.
But unfortunately all too often medical professionals fail to properly analyse the situation, instead sticking to their original diagnosis of a urinary tract infection, even if there are no convincing symptoms. Consequently a patient will be prescribed a course of antibiotics and sent home.
The dangers of a delay in diagnosing appendicitis
However, if a patient with appendicitis is provided with a wrong diagnosis, the consequences can be devastating. This is because the infection will take hold very quickly, causing a patient to become increasingly unwell. If treatment is still withheld, the appendix will eventually perforate (or rupture), causing pus to spill into the abdominal cavity. This will lead to a condition known as peritonitis, whereby the lining of the abdomen is infection. This is extremely dangerous, and can even be fatal.
Once a patient is at this stage, it is very likely that appendicitis will eventually be diagnosed. Emergency surgery can then be performed to remove the appendix and to wash out the pus from the abdominal cavity. Nonetheless, medical professionals should not have allowed a patient to reach this advanced state. A competent doctor should be able to diagnose appendicitis before the appendix perforates; if there has been a failure to do so, the level of care will have fallen to a substandard level.
Have you suffered because of your appendicitis was not diagnosed?
If you have sought medical attention for appendicitis, but there was a delay in diagnosis, you could be considered the victim of medical negligence. This means that the incompetence of medical professionals caused you to suffer additional injury. This will include prolonged pain and suffering, a prolonged period in hospital, significant scarring (if open surgery had to be performed) and psychological injury. As the victim of medical negligence, you will be entitled to claim compensation for the damages you have sustained. To find out more, you need to speak to a medical negligence solicitor.