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The misdiagnosis and mismanagement of cluster headaches

| Jun 10, 2020 | Medical Malpractice, medical negligence

A headache may seem like a minor ailment. On its own, it could cause minimal discomfort, especially when an individual suffers from a headache rarely if ever. However, for some individuals in Montana, headaches are described as being extremely painful and even debilitating. Thus, when a patient seeks medical care to treat their headaches and discover the underlying cause, he or she trusts the expertise of the medical specialist treating them. But when a patient is not accurately or timely diagnosed, this could create health issues or a worsened condition.

Headaches can range in pain levels, pain type and frequency, and these details can signify not only the types of headaches one is suffering but also help signify any issues a patient might be dealing with as well as the proper treatment plan they require. However, some headaches can be challenging to diagnose. A recent study found that cluster headaches are often misdiagnosed, taking much longer to diagnose timely.

When given a closer looked, the reason for delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis and mismanagement of cluster headaches is based on the tension that occurs between primary and secondary care and the cost of medication, the referral process to specialists and the remit of prescribing a course of treatment. A cluster headache is described as a severe headache that begins quickly, providing no signs or warnings that a headache is coming on. These headaches can last between 15 minutes to three hours with a frequency of one to eight times a day.

The study found that a delay in diagnosis and treatment had a significant impact of a patient’s mental health. Participants in the study were likely to experience psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts and attempts. Furthermore, misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis of a cluster headache leads to unnecessary procedures. This includes teeth extractions and sinus washouts.

Finally, it was discovered that general practitioners will override the advice of a specialist by prescribing cheaper drugs instead of the injectable or nasal triptans the specialist prescribes. Thus, mismanagement of a cluster headache diagnosis could lead to harm to a patient.

Medical errors could be made at any phase of the diagnosis and treatment process. Thus, it is important that patients understand this and what they could do if medical negligence is suspected. Filing a medical malpractice action could be a valuable step to take. It not only holds a negligent medical professional accountable but also helps the patient address the harms and losses suffered because of it.

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