The US Department of Health and Human Services has published a report revealing that of the nearly 130 million Americans who visit the Emergency Room every year, 6% will be misdiagnosed. This means that approximately 1 in every 18 ER patients gets the incorrect diagnosis and possibly the incorrect treatment. This could further harm the patient, resulting in prolonged suffering, long-term disability, or even wrongful death. When this happens, a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville can help you to seek compensation.

Most Common Misdiagnoses

The research also concluded that five conditions were the most commonly misdiagnosed, accounting for 39% of the misdiagnosed cases in the Emergency Room each year.

  • Stroke - The study concludes that a stroke diagnosis is missed 17% of the time because of the patient reporting symptoms such as vertigo or feeling dizzy. It is believed that as many as 40% of patients presenting themselves at the ER with these symptoms had their stroke missed or misdiagnosed on their initial visit.
  • Myocardial Infarction - The second most common misdiagnosis was found to be Myocardial Infarction, better known as a heart attack. There are over 1.5 million heart attacks in the United States, and around 11,000 of those are not correctly diagnosed. Interestingly, another study presented to the ESC Acute Cardiovascular Care Conference in 2021 revealed that heart attacks were more frequently misdiagnosed in women than in men. This could be linked to the fact that statistically, women wait longer before presenting themselves at ER when experiencing chest pains and other symptoms relating to heart attacks.
  • Aortic Aneurysm or Dissection - The heart is also the focus of the next most common misdiagnosis, in the form of Aortic Aneurysm. This is a bulge in the aorta, the heart’s large artery, that resembles a balloon and requires either medication to lower the blood pressure or surgery to repair or even replace the damaged area of the aorta. If this is misdiagnosed, the increasing pressure on the artery wall can cause it to split, resulting in aortic dissection. It may then rupture if it bursts completely. Aortic dissection or rupture accounts for most deaths related to an aortic aneurysm. Suppose the failure to diagnose an aortic aneurysm has led to a deterioration in the condition of a loved one or even death. In that case, you should consult with a medical malpractice lawyer immediately.
  • Spinal Cord Compression or Injury - Around 12,000 people in the United States suffer from Spinal Cord Compression every year. This type of injury happens when pressure is placed on any area of the spinal cord, from the neck down to the lower back. Trauma, injuries, tumors, herniated discs, or spinal stenosis can cause it. The longer the symptoms of spinal cord compression are untreated, the more significant the risk of suffering from a permanent injury. Failure to identify and treat such an injury can have devastating consequences. You will want to contact a medical malpractice lawyer to discuss a potential lawsuit if this is something that you have experienced.
  • Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) - When blood clots form in the veins, it can cause some very severe symptoms. The most common types you may have heard of include Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) (usually occurring in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis) and Pulmonary Embolism, which is a clot in the lung. Failure to diagnose and administer treatment for VTE can result in serious illness, permanent disability, and even death.

Are These Misdiagnoses Due to Medical Malpractice?

According to the report, which collated data from almost 300 studies conducted between January 2000 and September 2021, approximately 7.4 million misdiagnosis errors happen yearly. 2.6 million of those individuals suffered harm that should have been preventable, and 370,000 are permanently disabled or die prematurely. So, the question is, does this mean that all of these cases are caused by medical malpractice? Many in the healthcare industry would disagree. A number of emergency physician groups and associations have responded to the report claiming that it is incomplete and misleading. They believe that the very nature of emergency medicine means that it is less focused on diagnosis and more on stabilizing the patient’s acute symptoms. Does this then absolve ER doctors of blame when a misdiagnosis occurs? The answer is no.

If you or a family member has been misdiagnosed, you can consult a medical malpractice lawyer in Knoxville to discuss a potential lawsuit. In order to move forward with a medical malpractice lawsuit, four legal elements need to be satisfied.

  1. Proof that the doctor or other professional has a duty of care to the patient
  2. Proof that the doctor or other professional breached their duty of care to the patient
  3. Evidence that injury or death was caused by breaching the duty of care
  4. Evidence that damages have been sustained, either tangible losses like medical expenses and loss of earnings or intangible damages such as pain and suffering or loss of consortium.

Contact Butler, Vines, and Babb today to speak with one of our experienced medical malpractice lawyers today.


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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