In the latest chapter of How Doctors Think, the author disclosed his years of struggling with a hand problem which no specialist seemed to properly diagnose. He visited four hand surgeons in the course of several years, and each seemed to provide a unique approach in resolving the author’s ailment. For a single problem, there were four different diagnoses. 😐
Though a surgeon’s hands are traditionally regarded as his greatest asset, it really is his framework of thinking which is the most pivotal. Sure, manual dexterity comes in handy to suture tiny blood vessels, for example, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s the calm and structured thinking which always governs successful surgeries. In fact, each of the surgeons the author visited had lost sight of this mentality and ultimately committed an error. It wasn’t until the fourth one (who happened to be the youngest) till a successful diagnosis and treatment was reached.
Just like the first surgeons (labeled ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’), surgeon D examined the images of the author’s hand/wrist; however, rather than disregarding aberrations which seemed irrelevant to the painful condition, he tried to unify the symptoms into a collective theory which proved to be correct. He concluded that since the pain presented during motion, more images needed when the wrist was contorted. The new images revealed the underlying problem, and that was that. 🙂
So where was the oversight from the previous surgeons? Well, in this case, precedent was harmful. If physicians are so preoccupied with relating a new patient’s case with something they recently saw, they may entirely miss the proper diagnosis. Furthermore, it’s dangerous to label certain symptoms as “coincidences” or “meaningless” just because they differ from the previous case.
I’m about 70-80 pages ahead of this chapter right now, so I apologize for the lack of detail. 😀