Rheumatology is the study and treatment of diseases and medical conditions that have an effect on our joints, musculoskeletal system and internal organs. Specialists in this field are in high demand— with less than 4,000 practicing rheumatologists in the United States and over 50 million people suffering from some rheumatic condition. Their ability to diagnose and treat conditions in a timely fashion can make a marked difference in the quality of living their patients experience, but their failure to do so can have equally devastating consequences. The Chicago rheumatologist medical malpractice attorneys of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers work tirelessly on behalf of those who have been injured due to negligent care.
The Path to Becoming a Practicing Rheumatologist
Medical specialists need to be prepared to dedicate over a decade of their lives to obtaining the education and skills needed to practice in their desired specialty. An aspiring rheumatologist must begin by completing a degree in medicine or osteopathy and then decide whether he or she plans to enter a residency program in internal medicine or pediatrics. Residency programs normally last three years and help doctors acquire real world experience working with patients that are suffering from a broad range of ailments.
Those who complete their residencies in pediatrics can move on to a fellowship program in pediatric rheumatology while those choosing to work in internal medicine can complete a similar program in general rheumatology. Fellowship programs last for two to three years and pair doctors with experienced mentors who can guide them as they work with patients suffering from rheumatic conditions.
There are two different board certifications rheumatologists can acquire, both of which will allow them to acquire work more easily and at a higher rate of pay. The first certification is in internal medicine while the second is in the specific field of rheumatology and both are completed and maintained through real world experience and extensive testing. After passing the certification test, a rheumatologist will need to commit to continued education and routine recertification in the future.
An average rheumatologist makes over $215,000 per year and has the opportunity to make much more through membership in renowned medical associations and positive references. In the event that one of these specialists makes a mistake that causes undue injury to a patient, it is important that he or she provides compensation to cover the costs of making things right. Our Chicago rheumatology malpractice lawyers have access to experts in economics and medicine who can accurately value our clients’ cases in order to make sure that the compensation received truly covers the financial and emotional impact of the injury.
How Rheumatologists Help Patients Suffering from Musculoskeletal Disorders
There are currently over 100 known disorders that affect the muscles, bones and joints and many of them are extremely difficult to diagnose in a timely fashion. The reason for this is that they tend to be progressive and doctors mistake their early symptoms for less serious conditions. A patient may be referred to a rheumatologist if a primary care physician or other specialist feels that more information is needed to form an accurate diagnosis or if the patient’s current treatment plan is not yielding the desired result.
The most common conditions they treat include the following.
- Lupus — while there is no cure for this condition, there are ways doctors can help patients manage symptoms in the hope of living more productive and satisfying lives. Lupus can affect numerous systems throughout the body, including the joints, kidneys, heart, lungs and brain. Patients often feel joint pain and fever while suffering from fevers and rashes. Rheumatologists can help by addressing issues such as diet and lifestyle while prescribing medications to help limit the chances of flare ups.
- Arthritis — there are numerous forms of arthritis and many people experience some form of arthritis during their lives due to age. By definition, it is the inflammation of joints that causes pain, limited range of motion and stiffness. In addition to being the product of aging, it can also result from injuries or autoimmune disorders. When it becomes a chronic condition, a rheumatologist may be consulted for treatment options.
- Osteoporosis — our bodies naturally absorb bone tissue over time, but it is replaced with new tissue as quickly as the old tissue is absorbed into the body. Osteoporosis is a common disorder that results from the over absorption of bone tissue and most commonly impacts older patients. Due to weakening bones, those suffering from osteoporosis are more likely to fracture their bones and many are never aware of their conditions until a fracture occurs.
- Tendonitis — tendons are the tissues that connect muscle to bone and they may become inflamed due to repetitive use or minor trauma, resulting in tendonitis. In some cases, it may be the result of a more serious accident or poor treatment of a fracture.
- Sjögren's Syndrome — commonly linked with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, this condition causes the body’s immune system to attack the glands responsible for the production of tears and saliva. Patients may experience extremely dry eyes or have difficulty eating due to a lack of saliva. Treatment options include medications, eye drops and surgical intervention.
- Gout — this extremely painful form of arthritis occurs when uric acid accumulates in the blood and makes its way into the joints before crystalizing. The tiny sharp crystals can damage the joint and cause sudden and immense pain. These attacks are most common in the big toe and sufferers can experience agonizing pain for days or weeks until the crystals liquefy and are removed from the blood through the urine. Gout sufferers can reduce the likelihood of attacks through changes in diet and a rheumatologist may prescribe medications to regulate uric acid levels.
- Nerve impingements — a nerve impingement occurs when a major nerve is pinched or squeezed due to conditions such as sciatica or carpal tunnel syndrome. The impingement results in severe pain and may also affect motor function.
Since many of these conditions progress slowly, it can be possible for doctors to misdiagnose or fail to diagnose a disease until it has had the opportunity to worsen. They also tend to impact multiple organs and systems, requiring counsel from more than one specialist when forming a treatment plan. A rheumatologist can help by reviewing patients’ medical histories and ordering diagnostic tests to detect abnormalities in antibody production, inflammatory response and visual indicators of diseases.
The tests rheumatologists order may include an ultrasound, CT scan, MRI and blood panel. Since many of the conditions being treated are chronic, they play an important role in educating patients concerning their illnesses and helping them make better lifestyle choices while managing their symptoms through physical therapy, medication and surgery.
Causes and Forms of Rheumatology Medical Malpractice
The most common cause of medical malpractice claims against rheumatologists is a delay in diagnosis and treatment, resulting in the worsening of conditions and life threatening complications. As stated before, many rheumatic diseases present with similar symptoms and may not be easy to diagnose initially, which is why doctors need to be more thorough when acquiring information. Here are the most common ways rheumatologists can act in a negligent manner.
- Failing to order the appropriate tests. Misdiagnosis and failure to diagnosis stems from a lack of information and many patients are injured when their doctors formulate a treatment plan for the wrong condition. Prescribing medication or insisting on surgery for the wrong disease can result in adverse reactions.
- Failure to diagnose lupus. Since patients suffering from lupus can develop blood clots, experience neurological disorders and suffer from related cardiovascular disease, it is important they are diagnosed in a timely fashion. The failure to do so can prove deadly.
- Use of alternative medicine. Many patients are being guided into treatments such as acupuncture, massage therapy and herbal remedies that are not clinically proven to have any success. When discussing these treatment options, it is important that patients are aware that they are alternative treatment measures and have no scientific evidence to back their effectiveness.
- Medication errors. Prescribing the wrong medication can exacerbate a rheumatic condition. Whether due to misdiagnosis, failure of the doctor to consider drug interaction or dosage errors, the impact on the patient’s health can be catastrophic.
- Failure to refer patient to another specialist. Many rheumatic diseases impact many areas of the body and other specialists may need to be consulted when forming a treatment plan or considering surgical options. If a rheumatologist doesn’t refer a patient to a more qualified specialist when deemed appropriate to do so, it could be considered negligent.
Let Our Medical Malpractice Lawyers Review Your Case for Free
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers has helped thousands of clients recover the compensation they deserve for injuries they suffered due to medical negligence. If you believe you have been injured due to misdiagnosis or a medical error, we may be able to help you determine whether you have a case. We can also connect you to quality medical specialists that can provide you the medical and rehabilitative care you need to facilitate your physical recovery.
Contact us today to be connected with one of our award winning Chicago rheumatologist medical malpractice attorneys so that we can collect the information we need to evaluate your case. Once we have conducted our own investigation into the matter, we can advise you concerning your legal options and what you can expect from the process of litigation. Since we work solely on a contingency basis, you are assured that if we are unable to help you secure the compensation you are entitled to, our services will be free of charge.