Common Medical Misdiagnoses in Children

As parents, our number one priority is keeping our children safe, happy, and healthy. When they are unwell, we do everything we can to alleviate their suffering, including seeking professional medical advice where necessary. Without the training and knowledge, we must put our trust in doctors and place our precious little ones in their hands. Unfortunately, there are times when these trained professionals get it wrong. Misdiagnosis is one of the most common reasons parents seek out a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville to represent their child. Let’s look at some of the most common Misdiagnoses affecting children.

What is Medical Misdiagnosis?

Misdiagnosis is a type of medical malpractice that covers mistakes by medical professionals in failing to diagnose, delaying a diagnosis, or diagnosing the wrong condition. This can result in a delay in receiving the appropriate treatment. As a result, the patient’s condition may worsen or be left with permanent damage caused by the incorrect treatment. In severe cases, it can result in wrongful death. Medical misdiagnosis can result from the doctor’s negligence or could be attributed to inadequate record keeping making it difficult for the doctor to see the patient’s entire medical history. The misinterpretation of imaging and other test results can also play a role in misdiagnosis.

Viral Illnesses

Children are constantly picking up bugs, especially during school semesters when they are mixing with large numbers of other children, so it is not uncommon for them to pick up coughs, colds, stomach bugs, and other illnesses. Most of these conditions can be treated at home, perhaps with support from the local pharmacy, but on occasion, it might get a little more severe and need a visit to the doctor. This is where the potential for misdiagnosis arises, as viral illnesses may be mistakenly diagnosed as bacterial. While this may seem like a minor mistake, it could result in the unnecessary use of antibiotics. This increases the child’s risk of potential side effects, including rashes, diarrhea, or allergic reactions. These are usually temporary, but there can be permanent damage in some cases. If that is the case, you may decide to discuss your options with a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville.

Psychological Illness

It is not only physical illness that can result in medical misdiagnosis; there can also be mistakes made when treating psychological conditions. There are concerns within the medical community of a disproportionate number of children being misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder because it is a ‘trending’ condition at present. Similar concerns have been expressed over pediatricians being too quick to diagnose ADHD. However, while these conditions are possibly being overdiagnosed, it is also common for psychological symptoms in children to be dismissed, resulting in failure to diagnose and treat health conditions. Delayed treatment, or indeed incorrect or unnecessary treatment, can have a lasting impact on a child’s life. In these cases, it is wise to consult a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville.


In recent years it has been established that in pediatric cases, there are often none of the ‘classic’ symptoms of appendicitis, such as tenderness of the lower abdominal area. There is often some confusion between appendicitis and upper respiratory infection resulting in misdiagnosis. The misdiagnosis of appendicitis in children under five is between 57 and 67 percent making it the most common pediatric misdiagnosis. A missed diagnosis of appendicitis can be extremely dangerous, with 50% resulting in a ruptured appendix. This can, in turn, lead to peritonitis, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and even death. If your child has suffered because of a misdiagnosis of appendicitis, you should talk to a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible to start filing a lawsuit.


Most parents have heard of meningitis and know that it is a potentially fatal condition involving infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. However, unfortunately, it is also something that healthcare professionals will often miss and wrongly diagnose as the flu or a respiratory infection. This can lead to some severe health complications or even wrongful death. Suppose your child has suffered from a missed case of meningitis, and the doctor failed to administer diagnostic tests such as a spinal tap and blood tests despite your child exhibiting classic symptoms. In that case, you could have a lawsuit on your hands, and it is worth speaking to a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville immediately.

If your child is suffering from a misdiagnosis, we urge you to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. You could be owed damages if your doctor or other healthcare professional has acted negligently in treating your sick child.


Butler, Vines and Babb is a leading law firm in Knoxville, TN, with extensive litigation experience in Medical Malpractice LawBirth Injury LawTrucking Accident LawPersonal Injury Law, and Business Law. Contact us today at or call 865-637-3531.

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