Misdiagnosis of Appendicitis

Although appendicitis may seem to be a common malady that is readily diagnosable, it can be a fatal condition if a physician fails to properly diagnose it in time.

The appendix is a small portion of the large intestine resembling a pouch. It usually rests in the lower right side of the abdomen near to where the small and large intestines meet.

Problems occur when the appendix becomes inflamed and swells with bacteria and pus, typically causing pain in the right lower portion of the abdomen along with a fever. Pressing down on this area is painful. This is acute appendicitis and requires swift medical attention and immediate surgical removal of the appendix.

If the patient does not get medical attention or if the condition is not properly diagnosed, the condition can lead to a ruptured appendix and peritonitis, an infection of the membrane lining the abdomen.

A misdiagnosis can be deadly. If you suspect a misdiagnosis of appendicitis, immediately contact an appendicitis misdiagnosis attorney.


Symptoms of appendicitis may include the following:

  • Abdominal pain beginning near the belly button before moving
  • towards the right lower part of the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Pain when breathing deeply, coughing or moving
  • Pain when applying pressure to the lower right abdomen
  • Nausea


The treatment for appendicitis is removal of the appendix, or an appendectomy. Instead of large incisions in the abdomen, timely diagnose may allow surgeons to make small incisions and insert a tiny camera and instruments to remove the appendix with minimal invasion.

Although doctors are still unsure of the purpose of the appendix, you can live an entirely normal life with no changes in your lifestyle at all without one.

Causes of Appendicitis

If a piece of food or a stool becomes lodged in the appendix, it can cause inflammation and infection.

Gastrointestinal infections can cause acute appendicitis as well.

Appendicitis usually occurs in teenagers and younger adults. Having a family history of appendicitis is a risk factor as well.


Misdiagnosis of appendicitis in children, the elderly and women of reproductive age is not uncommon. If a child has a history of stomach problems, their doctor may dismiss some obvious signs of appendicitis as constipation or some other digestive condition.

The elderly can be poor historians and physicians may not spend enough time with them, misinterpret what they are relating, or fail to get an adequate history from other sources. An elderly patient may not experience the same level of abdominal discomfort as younger patients, which a health provider may not always realize.

Also, many doctors fail to spend adequate time with their patients as abdominal pain is a common complaint heard by doctors.

Other conditions that a doctor may mistakenly diagnose (instead of appendicitis) include the following:

Crohn’s disease--Chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that affects the lower portion of the small intestines.

Gallstones--Hard deposits that can remain in the gallbladder or become stuck in the cystic duct or bile duct.

Gastroenteritis--Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.

Ovarian cysts--In women of childbearing age, these are small, fluid-filled sacs that can be painful if ruptured.

Many times a misdiagnosis is the result of inadequate history and a cursory examination, especially if the patient is not exhibiting the classic symptoms of appendicitis related above.

Common Causes for Misdiagnosis of Appendicitis

  • Pain but no nausea
  • No rectal examination performed
  • Diagnosis of gastroenteritis or one of the conditions listed above with no documentation
  • No documentation on the physician’s chart regarding a follow up examination.
  • Inadequate history or failure to review previous charts if seen earlier
  • Normal white blood count (WBC) and failure to perform second test despite other symptoms.
  • The majority of patients with appendicitis will have an elevated WBC, but a normal one is not necessarily indicative of another diagnosis so that another test should be administered 4-8 hours after the first.
  • Failure to admit the patient for observation.
  • Failure to surgically intervene or arrange for consultation.
  • Sharp pain has become dulled and has spread across the abdomen.

Other Complications

A delayed or missed diagnosis can lead to a rupture of the appendix, infection and possibly death. Surgery is required immediately, but complications can arise from the surgery itself. For example, physicians have been known to leave instruments inside a patient’s body or they performed the procedure on the wrong patient. Because the patient is under anesthesia, he or she needs to be carefully monitored for signs of cardiac or respiratory distress.

Responsible Parties

Physicians have a duty to use the requisite care and skills of a competent physician who practices in the same medical community; in other words, they are held to a certain minimum standard of care in performing the procedure. Their staff is also held to similar standards, and a physician along with nurses and anyone else involved in a medical procedure or in the care of a patient can be held liable in a medical malpractice action.

Hospitals can also be held responsible if they hired the surgeon and staff that committed a preventable medical error.

Consult an Appendicitis Misdiagnosis Attorney

Anyone who suspects that a wrong or delayed diagnosis was made in an appendicitis case needs to consult with an appendicitis misdiagnosis attorney, or personal injury lawyer, who is experienced in these types of cases.

Medical malpractice claims are complex and involve issues of law, liability and the use of expert testimony. There are different deadlines for these types of cases as well. Consulting with a personal injury attorney can assure you that your case will be handled zealously and in accordance with the law and rules governing these claims.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen S. Weinstein, P.C.
for your free personal consultation today.

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