Misdiagnosis of Psychotic Alzheimer’s Patients

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Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers discuss how misdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s can sometimes happen. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common forms of dementia, affecting over five million people in the United States alone. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s and a diagnosis can be a devastating blow to the patient and his or her family.

Alzheimer’s is frequently misdiagnosed because it can resemble other types of dementia like frontotemporal dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). According to a new study entitled, “Determining the Impact of Psychosis on Rates of False-Positive and False-Negative Diagnosis in Alzheimer’s Patients,” doctors are more likely to miss an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in psychotic patients than non-psychotic patients.

A correct Alzheimer’s diagnosis is critical if patients are to receive the most effective care and avoid a medical error. Patients who suffer from neurodegenerative disease can develop psychosis, which often affects diagnosis rates in Alzheimer’s patients, although the full impact of this unclear. The researchers used data from the Seattle-based National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center (NACC) to study the misdiagnosis rates in Alzheimer’s patients with and without psychotic features.

Research Findings

According to research, nearly 12 percent of patients received a false-negative diagnosis and just over 12 percent received a false-positive Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Seventy-six percent of all patients were correctly diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s. When researchers categorized patients by their psychosis status, based on patient responses to a questionnaire about delusions and hallucinations, the results indicated a higher rate of false-negative diagnoses among psychotic patients compared to non-psychotic patients. Psychotic patients had a lower rate of false-positive diagnoses.

Researchers also found that psychotic patients were five times more likely to be diagnosed with DLB, while non-psychotic patients were more likely to receive a false Alzheimer’s diagnosis when the patient was actually suffering from vascular pathology leading to dementia.

Some studies suggest that a conclusive Alzheimer’s diagnosis can only be made by conducting an autopsy. Researchers are hopeful that this study will provide a better understanding of the specific factors that lead to a diagnosis so that health care providers can ensure that patients are receiving the most effective treatment, including the latest medication options.

Facts About Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
  • By 2050, as many as 16 million people could be living with the disease.
  • In 2017, the cost to treat Alzheimer’s, and other types of dementia in the United States is approximately $259 billion.
  • Since 2000, Alzheimer’s-related deaths have increased by 89 percent.
  • Ten percent of people over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s dementia.
  • Close to two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients in the United States are women.

Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers Advocate for Patients Who Have Been Misdiagnosed

If you or someone you know has been misdiagnosed by your healthcare provider, contact a Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will thoroughly review your medical records and determine whether your physician was negligent in any way. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent medical malpractice victims in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.