When diagnosing COPD, doctors will first interview a patient about their medical history, symptoms, and possibly whether the patient has recently been exposed to lung irritants, such as smoke or pollution. The doctor will then conduct a physical examination by listening to the patient breathe in and out listening to the patient's lungs with a stethoscope.
A doctor may then perform a lung function test to see how much air the patient is able to take into his or her lungs with each breath. A spirometry test requires a patient to blow as hard as they can into a tube and measures the air volume as well as how fast the patient is able to breathe out. This test can detect COPD prior to the development of symptoms and also rule out other lung conditions. A doctor may also order other tests, such as chest x-rays.
Failure to diagnose COPD and similar conditions could result in worsening symptoms, more expensive treatments and a lower quality of life. The costs associated with this type of error may be vast and might represent an unmanageable financial burden on a patient and their family. However, if evidence suggests that a health care facility's negligence contributed to the failure to diagnose a condition, it may be possible for the patient to hold that facility liable for damages.
Patients who believe they may have been misdiagnosed may wish to consult an attorney. Medical negligence cases might require careful analysis to determine what went wrong. An attorney may be able consult other health experts and review medical records in an effort to find evidence of negligence. If such evidence exists, it might be used as the basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit that seeks court-ordered compensation for the damages suffered by the patient.