A real ER is not quite like TV
Television medical dramas do not accurately depict a typical hospital emergency room. Rather than gunshot wounds or flesh-eating bacteria, ER visitors are more likely to seek help for stomach pains, headaches and kitchen accidents.
But the most mundane conditions can turn out to be life-threatening. All too often, patients are right to head to the ER and doctors are wrong in diagnosing the problem or sending patients home. Medical malpractice in emergency medicine leads to many preventable deaths and disabilities.
Top 10 ailments in the ER
Only about one-third of ER visits are injury-related. Here are the most common trips to the emergency room – and some of the underlying conditions that may go untreated.
· Chest pains – It might be angina, muscle strain or severe heartburn. It’s also a classic symptom of heart attack and blood clots in the lungs.
· Abdominal pain – Many cases turn out to be constipation or mild food allergy. But it could indicate a life-threatening bowel obstruction, food poisoning or cancer.
· Toothaches – Most dentists aren’t open after hours. The ER can’t do dental work but can prescribe painkillers or drain a potentially serious abscess (infection).
· Fractures and sprains – Most orthopedic injuries are not life-threatening, but failure to diagnose or properly set a broken bone can result in permanent injury or incorrect healing.
· Respiratory problems – Sometimes it’s just a cold, flu or sinus infection. But undiagnosed pneumonia is very serious, especially for young children or the elderly.
· Lacerations – Accidental cuts from glass, knives and metal cause many E.R. visits. Deep cuts can lead to uncontrolled bleeding, severed tendons or nerve damage.
· Headaches – Many people are just seeking relief for a migraine. But headache can be a symptom of brain injury, aneurysm, stroke, meningitis and other acute conditions.
· Back pain – This is one of the most common ER complaints. It could be a muscle injury or pinched nerve, or indication of a herniated disc or kidney stones.
· Skin conditions – A rash or sore may be something temporary or local, but it can also signal a dangerous staph infection, cancerous tumor or other underlying illness.
· Foreign objects – Kids (and sometimes adults) swallow things they shouldn’t. Batteries and magnets can cause serious internal injury. Other objects can obstruct breathing or digestion.
Emergency room malpractice occurs in many forms. People collapse or die waiting to be examined. Doctors fail to order appropriate tests (blood sample, X-rays). Patients are misdiagnosed and sent home instead of being treated immediately or admitted for observation.
An experienced medical malpractice attorney can determine if the ER staff failed to follow protocols. Kennedy, Johnson, Schwab & Roberge, L.L.C., handles medical cases in New Haven and throughout Connecticut. We provide free consultations.