An abdominal hernia occurs when a bulge or tear develops in the abdominal wall, causing the intestines to protrude out. A bulge under the skin of the abdomen, a heavy feeling and feelings of pain when coughing, straining, sitting or standing are the most common symptoms of an abdominal hernia. Since these symptoms often occur with other medical conditions, it is possible for an abdominal hernia misdiagnosis to occur, which can cause additional problems as a result of not receiving treatment in a timely manner.
Since the presence of a hernia is easier to detect when a person is straining, many physicians have patients stand up or cough while they are being examined. In addition to a physical examination, the symptoms the patient presents with are also considered by the physician when diagnosing an abdominal hernia. An ultrasound may also be performed to make a definitive diagnosis and ensure the detected lump is caused by an abdominal hernia.
Given that many abdominal hernias are diagnosed based on a visual examination and the symptoms the patient reports, it is possible for an abdominal hernia misdiagnosis to occur. If a physician performs an ultrasound on a patient, a misdiagnosis may still occur as the results can be misread.
Many of the symptoms associated with an abdominal hernia are similar in nature to other conditions and diseases, which can increase the risk of a misdiagnosis. The feeling of abdominal pain and discomfort is also a symptom of appendicitis and can get worse when pressure is exerted on the abdomen. However, once the physician recognizes that acute appendicitis symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite and vomiting do not occur with an abdominal hernia, this potential diagnosis can be ruled out.
A diagnosis of chronic pelvic pain may be made instead of an abdominal hernia since stomach pain, pain felt while coughing or straining, and a heavy feeling in the abdominal area are symptoms that often coincide with an abdominal hernia and chronic pelvic pain. Individuals with both conditions also can find relief from the stomach pressure and pain when they lie down. The main difference between these two conditions is that a noticeable lump within the abdomen does not occur in patients with chronic pelvic pain. In this instance, the physician would have to not recognize this key difference and misdiagnose the patient with chronic pelvic pain rather than an abdominal hernia.
Stomach pain while straining is also a symptom of a condition called interstitial cystitis. Since frequent urination is a primary symptom of interstitial cystitis and this symptom does not occur when a patient has an abdominal hernia, the physician should be able to note this difference. However, if the patient also has a urinary tract infection, which has almost identical symptoms as an abdominal hernia, it is possible for a misdiagnosis to occur.
Individuals who have suffered an injury or other types of complications from a misdiagnosed hernia should discuss the details of their case with an attorney. A medical malpractice attorney will use their expertise to analyze the details of the case and determine if the physician behaved in a negligent manner.