Alzheimer’s diagnosis is often wrong

Arizona doctors who are examining patients who present with symptoms of dementia could experience difficulty with making a definitive diagnosis. Patients with delusions and hallucinations complicate matters because those symptoms strongly suggest the presence of Parkinson’s disease and other forms of dementia, but psychosis could also be part of Alzheimer’s disease.

The director of a memory disorders clinic in Toronto said that physicians might not realize the extent to which psychosis occurs in Alzheimer’s patients. Perhaps as many as 36 percent of people with Alzheimer’s experience delusions and nearly 20 percent have hallucinations.

To investigate the accuracy of dementia diagnoses, researchers analyzed data on 961 people. Some possessed clinical diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and other cases showed confirmed evidence of the disease in autopsies. Their findings showed that 12 percent of cases had a false positive diagnosis and another 12 percent had a false negative diagnosis for a total misdiagnosis rate of 24 percent. The results supported other studies that had placed the rate of misdiagnosis between 12 and 23 percent. An accurate diagnosis of the cause of dementia matters because treatments, such as they are, differ according to disease type.

Misdiagnosis might occur when a physician fails to perform appropriate tests or misinterprets results. Someone harmed by a physician’s failure to diagnose a problem could be the victim of a medical error because the mistake prevented or delayed treatment, resulting in a worsened medical condition. People who have found themselves in this position might want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to discuss their case.