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Representation. A hospital ArtisticOperations/Pixabay

A new report found that over seven million incorrect diagnoses, or 6% of all U.S. emergency room visits, are misdiagnosed each year.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and contracted researchers from Johns Hopkins University released the report on Thursday. The number of incorrect diagnoses roughly translates to one out of every 18 emergency room patients.

"Although estimated ED error rates are low (and comparable to those found in other clinical settings), the number of patients potentially impacted is large," the report states. The report concluded that while not all "diagnostic errors or harms" are preventable, the "wide variability in diagnostic error rates across diseases, symptoms, and hospitals suggests improvement is possible."

Thursday's report reviewed 279 studies published between January 2000 and September 2021 and identified the 15 most common misdiagnosed clinical conditions.

The top five misdiagnosed conditions were found to be stroke, myocardial infarction, aortic aneurysm/dissection, spinal cord compression/injury, and venous thromboembolism. The top five conditions accounted for 39% of serious misdiagnoses and patient harm.

Non-specific or atypical symptoms were the primary cause of misdiagnoses. Women and people of color also reported a 20% to 30% increased likelihood of being misdiagnosed.

Of the several million misdiagnoses every year, an estimated 2.6 million people "suffer an adverse event" and about 370,000 people a year "suffer serious harms from diagnostic error."

The New York Times reported some of the studies included in the report came from Canada and Europe leading to some U.S. medical organizations being critical of the findings.

The American College of Emergency Physicians and eight other medical organizations representing emergency room workers cosigned a letter calling the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report "misleading, incorrectly interpreted, and, in several cases, incorrect."

"The repercussions of this faulty report cannot be overstated, as it will irresponsibly and falsely alarm the public and potentially lead them to delay or even forego treatment for time sensitive emergencies," the letter states, in part.

The study's authors acknowledged in their report more research needs to be done in U.S. emergency rooms. The report concludes by stating "new studies should confirm overall rates are representative of current U.S.-based ED practice and focus on identified evidence gaps."