12% of pneumonia cases are misdiagnosed, study finds

Among 17,290 adults who were hospitalized for pneumonia in Michigan, 1 in 8 were misdiagnosed, according to a new study

Researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor reviewed thousands of medical records from 48 Michigan hospitals, and published their results March 25 in JAMA Internal Medicine. Between July 2017 and March 2020, they found 2,079 misdiagnosed cases of community-acquired pneumonia. 

Those patients received a week's worth of unnecessary antibiotics, the study found. About 3 in 4 of the misdiagnosed patients lacked radiographic criteria, 24.4% had fewer than two pneumonia symptoms and 2% did not meet either benchmark. 

Patients who were older, had dementia or presented with an altered mental status were at highest risk of misdiagnoses. In conclusion, the researchers said the results pose clinical and policy implications to improve care for these vulnerable populations.

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