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Dermatology consults can reduce cellulitis misdiagnosis

Cellulitis can be difficult for doctors in Oklahoma and across the U.S. to diagnose. However, a new study finds that being examined by a dermatologist at an early stage can help prevent misdiagnosis of patients with presumed cellulitis. The study, which was published in JAMA Dermatology, was conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Cellulitis is a common bacterial infection of the skin, but there are currently no diagnostic tests that can definitively confirm a patient has it. As a result, doctors must make a diagnosis based only on the physical appearance of a patient's skin and the symptoms a patient reports. This can be problematic because many other medical conditions can mimic the appearance and symptoms of cellulitis.

The study found that referring suspected cellulitis patients for a consultation with a dermatologist helped reduce the risk of misdiagnosis. It also improved medical outcomes for patients and lowered medical costs. The researchers embarked on the study after finding that one-third of patients visiting BWH's emergency department with presumptive cellulitis actually had pseudocellulitis. Concerned with that statistic, they teamed with the emergency department to have dermatologists examine 165 patients who were about to be admitted with cellulitis. The dermatologists determined that one-third of the patients had pseudocellulitis. If the findings were applied nationwide, it is estimated that up to 256,000 hospitalizations and up to 91,000 unnecessary antibiotic exposures could be avoided.

Victims of misdiagnosis may find relief by consulting with an attorney. Depending on the details of the case, legal counsel may recommend filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor and/or hospital responsible for the error. After filing such a suit, the victim might be awarded financial compensation for medical expenses and other damages.

Source: Science Daily, "Preventing the misdiagnosis of cellulitis," Feb. 20, 2018

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