In the medical field, there are three conditions in particular that are the most liable to be misdiagnosed: cancers, vascular events and infections. These are known as the Big Three. Residents of Pennsylvania should know that, according to a study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, nearly 1 in 10 patients with one of these three conditions are either misdiagnosed or diagnosed after such a delay that they suffer irreparable harm.

The study involved 15 conditions in all: five of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions in each category. Among cancers, for example, were lung, breast and prostate cancer. Vascular events included heart attacks and strokes while infections included sepsis and spinal abscesses.

Some conditions had a higher misdiagnosis rate than others. Heart attacks were the least likely to be misdiagnosed (2.2%) because the medical field has long made it a priority to quickly diagnose these. Spinal abscesses were the most frequently misdiagnosed condition (62.1%). Strokes were misdiagnosed 8.7% of the time, which may seem small until one recalls that they are, unlike spinal abscesses, far from rare.

An estimated 1 in 20 of those patients misdiagnosed suffer serious harm. There is no single explanation for why the Big Three are so frequently misdiagnosed. Sometimes, especially in the case of cancer, inadequate testing and screening can be to blame.

Those who are injured as a result of a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis may have a medical malpractice case on their hands. It must be shown, of course, that the doctor who indirectly caused their injury was not living up to a generally accepted standard of medical care. This is one of many requirements that must be met for a case to be valid, so victims may want a legal evaluation.