Medical Malpractice: When Appendicitis is Misdiagnosed


Medical malpractice occurs when acute appendicitis is misdiagnosed. Appendicitis is a disease of the appendix, a structure on the lower right side of the abdomen. The organ becomes inflamed. When appendicitis develops, it’s a medical emergency and requires immediate medical care. Generally, this involves the surgical removal of the appendix, which serves no known purpose within the body. If prompt medical care isn’t received, permanent damage or even death can occur. Here’s what patients need to know about this condition and what to do if they believe misdiagnosis contributed to their health outcomes.

Misdiagnosing Appendicitis

One of the reasons that appendicitis malpractice cases happen is that it can be a difficult condition to diagnose. The symptoms often mirror other issues and can be tied to preexisting medical conditions. A full medical history can reveal potential connections that could cause appendicitis. A number of tests are helpful in the diagnosis process, such as imaging (CT scans, ultrasound, X-rays) as well as blood and urine diagnostics. Multiple tests can help reinforce the information that is found and confirm the diagnosis.

Clinicians may misdiagnose appendicitis as a range of conditions that affect the abdomen, such as UTIs, gastroenterology issues, pancreatitis, pneumonia or respiratory problems, ovarian cysts, serious menstrual issues such as strong cramps or endometriosis, ectopic pregnancy, or major digestive ailments. The symptoms of appendicitis include:

  • Abdominal pain or swelling, especially in the lower right quadrant of the body and/or around the belly button
  • Diminished appetite
  • Bowel irregularities, such as constipation or diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Unable to pass gas, and/or the constant feeling of needing to use the bathroom

Identifying appendicitis risk

Different populations may be at increased risk for misdiagnosis. One group is young children, who may experience difficulty explaining their symptoms to the doctor or their caretakers. Women of childbearing age are also at risk; as many as 33% are initially diagnosed as struggling with reproductive issues. Finally, the elderly may be misdiagnosed as dealing with digestive problems. When other conditions are assumed, it can lead to failure to run the right tests and a delayed diagnosis. It the most serious cases, the results can be life threatening.

Appendicitis Prognosis

When a patient is diagnosed with appendicitis, immediate care is required. Most frequently, this occurs in the form of an appendectomy to remove the appendix. If adequate care isn’t received, then it’s possible for the appendix to burst. If this occurs, patients can go into shock and die. These tragic outcomes can be avoided when clinicians correctly identify the problem and run the right tests to be confirmed. The risk factors and symptoms of appendicitis are well-known and it’s easy to diagnose and treat the problem when the right steps are taken.

Have you or a loved one been the victim of misdiagnosed acute appendicitis or delayed diagnosis that impacted the patient outcome? Contact Rasmussen and Miner today to discuss your situation and determine if you may have the foundation of a medical malpractice case.