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What Happens When Your Doctor Misreads Your Test Results?

doctor reading test results

When you start experiencing unexplained symptoms, pain, or health concerns, your first stop may be your primary care physician. You trust your doctor to listen to your concerns and, when necessary, to send you for testing or to see a specialist. Many specialists have their own tests they like to run when meeting with new or established patients, as well. 

Test results are often an essential component of correctly diagnosing a disease or illness. When your doctor misreads your test results, you could be at risk for additional harm in the form of unnecessary disease progression, co-morbidities, and additional medical harm that may constitute medical malpractice. 

Who Might Misread Test Results? 

If you present with certain symptoms or are seeing your family doctor for your annual visit, you might be asked to provide a blood sample. Family doctors regularly screen for things like high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, diabetes, and other markers for organ problems and other health concerns. While these screenings are fairly routine in the medical industry, physicians can still easily misread results if they are rushed, dealing with other matters at the same time, or simply not paying attention. 

Your primary doctor is not the only medical professional who might misread results. Other medical professionals can misinterpret things like imaging tests, biopsies, and more, including: 

  • Obstetricians and gynecologists 
  • Gastroenterologists 
  • Oncologists 
  • Allergists and immunologists 
  • Dermatologists
  • Emergency room doctors 
  • Radiologists 
  • Cardiologists
  • Endocrinologists 

 This is far from a comprehensive list, as there are actually hundreds of different types of medical specialties. The most important thing to remember is that any doctor or medical professional who reviews and interprets your test results could misread them. 

When this happens there are at least two different potential outcomes, including missed diagnoses and misdiagnoses. 

Missed Diagnosis 

A missed diagnosis is a type of diagnostic error that occurs when a patient is suffering from a diagnosable illness, but a medical professional fails to make a diagnosis. For example, a woman may go to the doctor for stomach pain only to be told that nothing is wrong (or is only related to stress), when in fact she is suffering from ovarian cancer. 

A missed diagnosis can also occur when a doctor misinterprets or misreads the results of a medical test. When looking at an x-ray, a doctor might say there is nothing of note and send the patient on their way. When another medical professional reviews those same imaging results, it might be clear that the patient was suffering from a diagnosable illness that requires medical intervention. 

Missed diagnoses are dangerous because they allow illnesses and diseases to progress without any attempts at intervention. A cancer that would have been caught early if a doctor had correctly read test results might have been highly treatable at the time. However, given time to progress to later stages, treatment can become much more difficult with less chance of success. 

The medical community in Philadelphia has access to some of the best medical equipment, technology, and education in the country. The medical malpractice lawyers at Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco know that there is no reason that a patient should suffer as serious a diagnostic error as a missed diagnosis. 


A misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor or specialist incorrectly identifies one illness or disease as another. While a misdiagnosis might initially sound better than a missed diagnosis (after all it means that a doctor thinks there is something rather than nothing going on), it can truly be just as harmful. 

Consider one of the most common examples of a misdiagnosis, mistaking a heart attack for heartburn. A patient presenting at the emergency room with chest pain will usually undergo an electrocardiogram (ECG). If a doctor misreads the ECG results, they might decide that the patient is only suffering from heartburn instead. The doctor may then send the patient home with antacids or a prescription heartburn medication. 

Misdiagnoses also allow for the unnecessary progression and worsening of a medical condition. However, there is an added layer of harm in this error. Treating a patient for one illness when they are in fact suffering from another often exacerbates the existing health issues while potentially creating new ones. 

Being prescribed a medication for which you have no medical need can be extremely dangerous. Some prescription drug side effects can be debilitating, and these medications should only be used when there is a need. Some of the most common side effects of prescription medications include: 

  • Constipation or diarrhea 
  • Nausea 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Insomnia 
  • Weakness 
  • Drowsiness 
  • Dizziness 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nose bleeds 
  • Headaches 
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Blood clots 
  • Hallucinations 

Doctors should only prescribe medications when patients actually need them. The benefits of using any given medication should outweigh the potential negative side effects. When a patient is misdiagnosed, they have a high chance of being prescribed medication that they do not need and that may also be contraindicated in patients with their actual condition. 

In more serious cases of misdiagnosis, a patient might undergo unnecessary treatments or surgeries. While they are recovering from the impact of these medical interventions, their actual illness will still be progressing. 

How To Find Help After a Doctor Misreads Your Test Results 

If you ever suspect that your doctor misread your test results, missed a diagnosis, or misdiagnosed you, do not hesitate to seek a second opinion. You can have another doctor or specialist review your previous test results or you may inquire about new or additional testing. Do not delay in seeking this second opinion—the sooner you receive an accurate diagnosis, the sooner you can be on the best possible road to recovery. 

Unfortunately, many people do not realize that their doctor misread their test results until the damage is already done. By this point, patients may have accumulated thousands of additional dollars in medical debt on top of worsening overall health. At Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco, we believe that patients should be able to trust and rely on their doctors. When medical professionals let them down, we can help. 

If you need compensation for things like medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or any other damages related to your doctor’s negligent actions, contact us to schedule your free consultation today. One of our medical malpractice attorneys will go over your case and help you determine your options for moving forward with a legal claim. 

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