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Additional consultations could reduce lung misdiagnoses

People in New Jersey who are trying to understand their ongoing problems with their lungs and the ability to breathe may face issues receiving a correct diagnosis. However, by adding assessments for routine rheumatology issues, such as blood tests, to the process of diagnosing interstitial lung disease (ILD), doctors could help improve accuracy and prevent misdiagnoses. In the process, they could also reduce the need for invasive, painful procedures like biopsies or bronchoscopies, which can also have significant side effects.

When people have a connective tissue disease (CTD), it can often be reflected in the lungs. Patients may suffer from ILD as well as pulmonary hypertension, pleuritis, bronchiolitis and bronchiectasis. In order to diagnose ILD properly, several physicians must work together, including pulmonologists, pathologists and radiologists. In one study, researchers tracked 60 people who had been diagnosed with ILD. Each patient had a routine assessment by this type of team of physicians. After the assessment, each case was reviewed anonymously by rheumatologists, who made suggestions and provided input in order to revise the diagnosis in some cases.

Throughout the process, 40 percent of the patients were diagnosed as having ILD related to rheumatology. Prior to the rheumatologists’ assessment, the other physicians identified 83 percent of patients with Sjögren syndrome and 75 percent of those with rheumatoid arthritis. However, they had received initial misdiagnoses of immunoglobulin diseases, complex types of ILD, antisynthetase syndrome and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Researchers found that adding a rheumatology assessment to the diagnostic process would have prevented seven bronchoscopies and one biopsy. A misdiagnosis can be even more dangerous, however, when a patient does not receive the needed treatment due to a physician error. People who have suffered negative health consequences due to such a mistake can consult with a medical malpractice attorney about the potential to pursue compensation for their damages.