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Study finds that fibromyalgia is frequently misdiagnosed

Fibromyalgia sufferers in Montana typically experience widespread pain, fatigue and other symptoms that may affect quality of life. The chronic rheumatic condition is also difficult for doctors to properly diagnose. This is why it’s a condition frequently misdiagnosed — at least that’s the conclusion from a study that compared clinician diagnoses and published criteria.

Misclassification of the disease has the potential to result in medical malpractice litigation; although, this study on the diagnosis of fibromyalgia didn’t specifically address that issue. More importantly, a misdiagnosis could result in unnecessary treatments that are harmful or a delay in receiving the proper treatment. For the study, nearly 500 patients filled out a questionnaire and received an evaluation by rheumatology staff. It was discovered that nearly 25 percent of patients met the standards for being diagnosed with fibromyalgia based on American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria.

Twenty percent of patients received a clinician diagnosis of fibromyalgia. The clinical- and criteria-based diagnosis agreement was nearly 80 percent. However, 50 percent of the criteria-positive patients were not identified by clinicians. Approximately 11 percent of the criteria-negative patients were misdiagnosed as having fibromyalgia. The investigators noted there were issues with the interpretation of the meaning of a fibromyalgia diagnosis and “big problems” with clinician bias. With a subset of patients with rheumatoid arthritis, there was slight to fair agreement between clinical- and criteria-based diagnosis.

Proving medical professional negligence that includes misdiagnosis of a chronic condition like fibromyalgia often involves seeking input from health care experts. A lawyer may be able to seek out third parties that could review a physician’s accuracy. Misdiagnosis could also involve a misinterpretation of lab test results and the failure of a primary care physician to make a referral to a specialist.

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