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Pittsburgh Personal Injury Law Blog

CDC report highlights Lyme disease misdiagnoses

Pennsylvania residents may be interested in the findings of a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC report points out that Lyme disease is being erroneously diagnosed in a large number of cases and highlights the dangers associated with these misdiagnoses. In some cases, patients who have been misdiagnosed with Lyme disease have undergone long-term intensive courses of treatment that ultimately proved injurious or even fatal.

The symptoms of Lyme disease typically include headaches, bullseye-shaped skin rashes, fever and fatigue. If it goes untreated, the disease can spread to the joints, the nervous system and the heart. Generally, the treatment for Lyme disease is a course of antibiotics for between two and four weeks. According to the CDC, approximately 300,000 patients are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually.

Diabetes drug may cause rare side effect

People in Pennsylvania who take a kind of drug known as an SGLT2 inhibitor for type 2 diabetes may have twice as much likelihood of developing a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis than people who take a different class of inhibitors. However, researchers say that the condition is still very rare and that the possibility of this side effect is low enough that it should not stop people from taking SGLT2 inhibitors. Around 1 in 1,000 people who take the inhibitors will suffer from the condition.

Ketoacidosis is more common in people with type 1 diabetes, and therefore, researchers caution that it is important for physicians to be aware of the possibility that people with type 2 diabetes might develop the condition as well. Abdominal pain, vomiting, swelling in the brain and shortness of breath may all indicate ketoacidosis, and it can be deadly if it is not treated.

Study looks at reason for TBI differences by sex

Pennsylvania women who have suffered a traumatic brain injury may be more likely to have depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder afterward than men. Researchers have not known why this is the case, but a study funded by the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences has an answer. The study has found that the key may be a pathway in the brain that is disrupted in women.

The question asked by the researchers was why a brain blast injury affected the neuroendocrine system of men and women in different ways. The nervous and endocrine systems affect all body tissues and may alter metabolism, mood and sleep. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is the major neuroendocrine system in the body, and researchers did anatomical, behavioral and hormonal studies relating to that system. According to researchers, that system can be disrupted by a TBI, and the way in which this disruption to stress hormones occurs creates an increase in certain behaviors based on a person's sex.

Mild TBI and symptoms after six months

Some people in Pennsylvania who have sustained mild traumatic brain injuries may still suffer symptoms six months later. A recent study looked at 1,151 patients with mild traumatic brain injury, approximately 60 percent of whom were hospitalized. Studies of this kind usually don't separate patients by whether or not they were hospitalized, but those who were have usually suffered more serious injuries. Follow-up protocols differ for patients who were hospitalized. These individuals are advised to return for follow-up appointments. However, those who weren't admitted to the hospital are usually told they do not need to return for outpatient care unless they have ongoing issues.

The study found little difference in symptoms between hospitalized and nonhospitalized patients at the two-week mark. Both groups reported an average of five symptoms, the most common of which were fatigue, a need for more sleep, poor concentration, dizziness and headaches.

Understanding strokes

Pennsylvania residents should be aware that, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 130,000 people in the United States killed by strokes each year. This means that strokes are responsible for 1 out of every 20 deaths in the nation annually.

Strokes are not always fatal. However, they can ultimately result in death or cause permanent disabilities. The most common risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, advanced age and high cholesterol. Heart valve disease and atrial fibrillation are heart conditions that can also cause a stroke.

Study finds restraints important in preventing child fatalities

In a study that examined children's deaths in motor vehicle accidents from 2010 to 2014 by state, Pennsylvania had one of the lowest percentages. The study looked at fatalities among children under the age of 15. It found that more than 60 percent of these fatal crashes happened on rural roads and that in 20 percent of the deaths, children were not restrained or were restrained improperly. In 13 percent, children were in the front seat when they should not have been.

The South had the highest number of child deaths with 1,550 between 2010 and 2014. The region with the fewest, the Northeast, had 189. One researcher commented that the enforcement of effective state laws and regulations was critical in promoting safety. The lives of more than 230 children would be saved each year by a 10 percent increase in proper use of seat belts, car seats and other restraints. This amounts to almost 40 percent of the total number of deaths during the years of the study.

Medical AI and responsibility for misdiagnoses

The field of artificial intelligence has made impressive strides in the medical field, especially as a diagnostic aid. The advancing technology, however, creates difficult legal questions about liability if the machine makes a mistake. Currently, a Pennsylvania physician who harms a patient because of a misdiagnosis would potentially be liable for damages. In the future, blaming a machine for a medical mistake would introduce the problem of assigning liability.

When legal and insurance experts consider the problem, the first solution appears to be blaming the machine, but then that would leave no clear way for a victim to recover damages. The designers of AI systems present the next target, but development of the complex technology often involves hundreds of people. Choosing exactly who to hold responsible could be impossible. Placing liability upon the organizations running AI systems remains an option, but that approach could dissuade organizations from using the technology at all.

How telemedicine can help patients

Pennsylvania residents usually believe that their doctors are most often correct. However, getting a second opinion during a virtual meeting with a physician may reduce the odds of a misdiagnosis. Using the internet to meet with a doctor or specialist may be ideal because a patient doesn't have to travel. Instead, the meeting can be held securely and privately in a patient's home.

Employers are increasingly adding such services to health care plans offered to their employees. Health care companies are also partnering with companies that offer telehealth or telemedicine services in an effort to help patients find reputable physicians to obtain a second opinion from. While it is not designed to usurp the role of a local physician or care provider, the information gathered by outside medical experts could help create an accurate diagnosis for a patient.

Facts relating to motorcycle accidents

In 2015, there were nearly 90,000 reported motorcycle-related injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Because motorcyclists are almost 30 times more likely to die in a collision per mile traveled and about five times more likely to suffer an injury, motorcycle riding can be risky for Pennsylvania residents.

There are a variety of reasons behind motorcycle-related fatalities, and one is that many motorcycle riders and their passengers do not wear helmets. In fact, the NHTSA reported that nearly 2,000 lives were saved in 2015 because motorcyclists and their passengers were wearing helmets. In Pennsylvania, motorcycle operators must abide by the state's helmet use law during the first two years of licensure, unless they undergo a state-approved safety course.

Preventing melanoma

According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma is responsible for just about 1 percent of skin cancer cases, but it accounts for a substantial number of skin cancer fatalities. May is Melanoma Awareness Month, and Pennsylvania residents have the opportunity to learn more about the risks associated with sun exposure and sunburns.

Melanoma is a skin cancer that is a result of childhood sunburns and being regularly exposed to the sun. While the chances of developing melanoma increase as one grows older, women who are in their 20s and 30s are typically the most affected. Many people are unaware that melanoma can be fatal. While when it is detected early enough, its cure rate is 94 to 100 percent, if it metastasizes and develops in other parts of the body, the survival rate is only 20 percent.