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article image8-year-old girl dies after doctors think brain tumor is ADHD

By Yukio Strachan     Mar 1, 2013 in Health
Kalmar - An 8-year-old girl died after doctors in southern Sweden failed to diagnose a brain tumor, believing her symptoms may have been attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), an investigation has found.
According to The Local, an English-language Swedish news site, in 2007, doctors at Kalmar County hospital diagnosed the unidentified girl with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder due her motor difficulties and developmental delays, the local Barometern newspaper reported.
At the same time, doctors were suspicious that the patient's symptoms mimicked epilepsy. To find out, doctors ordered an electroencephalogram (EEG). EEG is the most useful and important test in confirming a diagnosis of epilepsy, WebMD states.
But the EEG, which measures and records the electrical activity of the brain, came back normal and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain was ruled out due to her young age which requires the patient to lie still for about 45 minutes to an hour.
According to Johns Hopkins, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT or CAT scan) are the most common types of tests used to diagnose brain tumors.
Videographer Craig Glover films 7T MRI from a safe distance.
Videographer Craig Glover films 7T MRI from a safe distance.
Four years later, The Local reported, the little girl was transferred to the Division of Psychiatry and began receiving psychiatric care which included medication therapy. During a follow up visit, the patient complained of severe headaches, prompting the office to suggest later contact with an optometrist for an evaluation.
Two months passed. Her condition had deteriorated, and she was beginning to vomit. The treating physician contacted the family 16 days after one of her parents contacted the psychiatrist's office saying the symptoms were medication related side effects, according to Barometern.
Finally, on January 17, 2012, the newspaper writes, the little girl was rushed to the emergency room in Kalmar and later transported more than 124 miles away to Linköping University Hospital. The newspaper didn't specify her symptoms.
She died the following day during an operation which revealed she had been suffering from a bleeding brain tumor, The Local reported.
After an internal investigation, the Kalmar County Council concluded that no single doctor had a clear, overarching picture of the girl's condition, Barometern writes.
Now, the incident has been reported to Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen). It found the county administrative board's investigation lacking, citing it didn't take measures that would improve patient safety. The Health and Welfare board said it wants to protect future patients from a similar outcome. Thus, the investigation is ongoing.
Other cases: USA
But this case isn't unusual. In June 2008, BakersfieldNow.com reported that a family in Bakersfield, CA found itself in a similar situation:
Their son, Austin was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when he was about five years old. He was on various medications to help control behavior and improve his concentration.
But, about two months ago the parents noticed changes in his behavior. "He started walking kind of funny on his right," mother Michelle Wilson told Eyewitness News on Friday. She says his right arm seemed weak, and his handwriting was affected.
The parents took Austin to a doctor who said he should be seen by a psychiatrist and neurologist. The neurologist ordered an MRI, and the parents were stunned by the results.
"They told us he had a tumor, and it needs to be removed as soon as possible," Michelle Wilson told the station at the time. "Two days later we were having surgery. It was a very large tumor -- it had been there for years."
Austin was sent to a special unit at UCLA for surgery on June 11th where doctors were able to remove 90% of the tumor, and save not only his sight, but his life.
"In our case, we were lucky. If it had been another six months to a year later -- we may still have our son, but he may be blind," his father Jeff Wilson told the news station.
Now, they've begun speaking to other families. They think Austin's case is not that unusual.
"It happens quite often, and other families we spoke to at UCLA that their child was fist [sic] diagnosed with ADHD, and later they round [sic] out it was a brain tumor," Michelle Wilson told BakersfieldNow.com.
Michelle Wilson said based on her experience, if the child has been diagnosed with ADHD, the mother thinks families should watch for any changes in the condition of their children: Especially weakness in one side, headaches and vomiting.
If you see those changes, the Wilsons urge families to ask questions. "That's why I'm trying to get my message out to parents," Michelle Wilson said. "Please get an MRI if you suspect something. Talk to your pediatrician, your doctor -- because it may save a child their sight or their life.
More about Kalmar County hospital, Brain tumor, Adhd, Sweden, Attention deficit hyperactive disorder
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