Do Kentucky Doctors Make the Right Diagnosis of a Fatal Brain Disease?

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A fatal brain disease seems to be misdiagnosed more often than not, according to an article on the HealthDay website.

A Deadly Disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare, degenerative brain disorder that is nearly always fatal within a year of onset. The National Institutes of Health reports that in the United States, about 200 cases are diagnosed each year. Symptoms usually begin when victims are about 60 years old. Early symptoms include the following:

  • memory deterioration;
  • changes in behavior;
  • lack of coordination; and
  • visual problems.

As the disease gets worse, victims display the following symptoms:

  • extreme mental decline;
  • involuntary movements;
  • blindness;
  • weakness in the extremities; and
  • coma.

Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or sCJD, occurs in individuals who have no apparent risk factors for the disease. Risk factors for CJD include

  • family history of CJD;
  • presence of a genetic mutation associated with CJD; or
  • exposure to brain or nervous system tissue, such as through medical procedures.

Reasons for Misdiagnosis of sCJD

A new study reveals that few people who have this fatal brain disease receive the right diagnosis when they are first examined by a doctor. In fact, only 18 percent of patients in the study were accurately diagnosed at the initial exam. The average patient received four misdiagnoses and eight months of testing before doctors arrived at a diagnosis of sCJD. Why is sCJD so easily misdiagnosed?

The early symptoms of this brain disease vary from patient to patient and mimic the symptoms of other conditions, such as Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s disease. Clues to sCJD are the unusually rapid deterioration of an individual’s abilities and the unique changes the disease causes in brain tissue: the brain becomes filled with holes until it looks like a sponge. The changes in brain tissue are only able to be observed during autopsy, when they can be viewed through a microscope.

The Value of Earlier Diagnosis

Although sCJD is fatal and, therefore, early diagnosis would not save the victim’s life, there are advantages to early accurate diagnosis, including the following:

  • prevention of transmission to other people through blood donation, infected surgical instruments, or other medical procedures;
  • testing of potential treatments as early as possible in the course of the disease; and
  • avoidance of unnecessary testing and treatment, which is not only costly but uncomfortable and even painful to the patient.

Many medical misdiagnoses lead to a patient’s death. If you or someone you love has died of a medical condition that was misdiagnosed, get in touch with a wrongful death attorney in Louisville. Call Gray and White Law at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation.