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4 out of 10 patients being misdiagnosed

February 23, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A doctor's mix up could end up being a misdiagnosis, but being aware of certain symptoms could help prevent problems.

New reports show more than 40 percent of hospital patients report being victims of a medical error. Those same projections show upwards of 98,000 people die from those same mistakes annually. So what missed symptoms could lead to a misdiagnosis?

Billie-Marie Morrison's health-themed radio show began with her own personal issues.

"I thought I had a cold that wouldn't go away," said Morrison.

First she was diagnosed with pneumonia, then bronchitis. But it turned out her doctors were way off, she had congestive heart failure.

"Sometimes women just have simple symptoms like they're short of breath, they feel a little sweaty, they feel a little nauseated, and at that could be a full-blown heart attack," said Dr. Carlos Fonte, MD, a cardiologist at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada.

While many women believe fatigue, weight gain and hair loss means perimenopause and depression, the actual diagnosis is hypothyroidism.

While women who experience dizziness, loss of leg control and vomiting may be told they have inner ear issues, the actual diagnosis is a stroke.

"Their memory is getting worse and these are some of the signs that perhaps they been having mini strokes," said Fonte.

Mary Hegland thought weight gain and fatigue meant she was getting older.

"I actually thought my blood pressure medicine wasn't working," she recalled.

She gained 43 pounds in 19 days and was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, but was then told it was pneumonia. The real problem was also congestive heart failure.

"I went in on Tuesday, I would have been dead on Friday," said Hegland.

For the best shot at a correct diagnosis, be honest and tell your doctor all your symptoms in detail. Most importantly, if you think your complaints are being dismissed, see another doctor.