Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Mistaken diagnoses plague patients, doctors

DNA 'fingerprinting method' might lower risk of lab errors on thousands, N.Y. Times says

Lab mixups and mistaken diagnoses (both positive and negative) may be happening to thousands of patients each year.

That's what Gina Kolata indicated recently in The New York Times.

Her article focuses on how to avoid those errors — a "high-tech solution: a way to fingerprint and track each sample with the donor's own DNA." 

But it's costly: About $300 per sample. So labs are reluctant to employ them.
Dr. John Pfeifer

Kolata, however, quotes Dr. John Pfeifer, vice chair of clinical affairs in the pathology and immunology department at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis as saying, "All the process improvement in the world does not get rid of human errors…Millions get biopsies every year. Is society going to say, 'Yeah, mistakes happen but we're not going to look for them?"

When the fingerprinting method is used, the lab tries to match the DNA from a swab taken from a patient's mouth. If it doesn't match, that signals a lab mix-up.

Errors, according to Kolata, "may lead a patient down a life-altering path, to a grueling treatment that was unnecessary, or to the neglect of a cancer that may or may not prove deadly."

Pfeifer actually reviewed more than 13,000 biopsy results from men evaluated for prostate cancer at a number of labs. The results were supplied by the chief exec at Strand Diagnostics, the company that's marketing the fingerprinting method.

More information about research into lab results can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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