One of the tough things that physicians have to do every day is figure out whether something is wrong with their patients, or if what they’re experiencing is within the normal expected range for their condition.
Take for example the situation facing a man who called our office today about a problem he has experienced since an outpatient knee surgery. After the operation, he had inflammation around his knee and noticed fluid discharging from the surgical site. It hurt to move his knee and he couldn’t bend it. Three months later, he has the same symptoms, but the surgeon keeps reassuring him that everything is normal.
As an experienced medical malpractice attorney, I know that the standard of care requires a physician or surgeon to use the differential diagnosis process to decide whether something is wrong with the patient or not. This means making a list of all potential conditions that could explain the patient signs and symptoms. The next step is to use an interview with the patient (patient history) and diagnostic testing (like lab work or radiology studies) to rule in or out each condition, starting with the most dangerous one.
I suggested to our potential client that he asked his surgeon to take a sample of the fluid discharging from his knee and send it to the laboratory for a culture and sensitivity test. This test will do two things. First, it will determine whether his knee is infected. Second, if it is, it will tell the doctor what type of antibiotic is necessary to treat it.
My point in sharing the story is that if you have a doctor who thinks you’re fine, but you think you’re not, then you should pursue a detailed discussion with your provider. Share what you think might be causing your problem. Ask what’s on the physician’s differential diagnosis list, what conditions have been eliminated and how, and if there are any tests that might be helpful.
I’ve successfully handled a lot of medical negligence cases where doctors jumped to the wrong conclusion and it caused a significant injury to the patient.
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Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas.