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Orthopedics, the study of the musculoskeletal system, is an area of medicine that seems to be at the forefront of medical malpractice. Patients regularly experience the painful and devastating effects of a negligent physician, or incorrect diagnosis regarding an orthopedic injury. Despite the growing number of complaints and lawsuits resulting from medical malpractice in this area, the majority of these complaints seem to stem directly from the family physician, rather than from a specialist. It seems primary care providers often neglect to refer patients with these types of injuries to an orthopedic surgeon, who may be more highly skilled to make a proper diagnosis.

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Orthopedic Misdiagnosis

When a patient is seen by a doctor for an orthopedic injury or other problem, an X-ray should be taken to determine the level of the patient’s injury and to help designate the best plan for recovery. Negligence on the part of a primary care physician can include an improperly read X-ray or one that is avoided altogether. This can, and often does, lead to severe complications for the patient.

An untreated fracture will worsen over time, possibly leading to irreversible problems. A hip or joint fracture can progress to permanent joint damage, calling for a full joint replacement procedure. Spinal cord injuries can be even more serious, eventually leading to paralysis, if not fully understood or properly treated. Complications from orthopedic injuries can be fully preventable, if the injury is understood and treated correctly from the onset. A misdiagnosis can lead to fracture either non-union or mal-union, causing permanent nerve injuries or even deformities.

Common Examples of Orthopedic Injury Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosis of an orthopedic injury depends upon the level of knowledge of the physician involved and the severity of the injury itself. There are several specific conditions which commonly lead to misdiagnosis in this area:

• ACL (Anterior cruciate ligament) tears are often mistaken for injuries to knee ligaments
• A rupture of the Achilles tendon is overlooked in nearly 25 percent of cases
• An untreated femoral neck stress fracture can result in re-fracture and possibly avascular necrosis (bone death caused by poor blood supply)
• An injury of this type may be caused by a slipped capital femoral epiphysis, causing little to no pain. When no pain is present, underlying problems can be that much more difficult to detect
• A delayed diagnosis of a scaphoid fracture can lead to early wrist arthrosis
• Ulnar collateral ligament tears often go unnoticed by unskilled professionals

Legal Assistance

With orthopedic misdiagnosis being so common, medical malpractice attorneys tend to be familiar with this type of case. When suffering from a possible injury that has worsened due to improper testing and diagnosis, a lawyer can help. Cases will be determined by review of the circumstances to uncover any negligence on the part of a family physician or specialist. Protecting the rights of an injured person can be extremely difficult without the help of an experienced attorney, making it imperative that those who feel they are the victims of medical malpractice or negligence contact an attorney soon after to evaluate their claim.