Depression in adolescents is not uncommon. In Canada and the United States, doctors are being encouraged to identify depression in children and adolescents to hopefully reduce the number of child suicides. Even if the child does not have indications that are obvious, physicians must look out for the signs that their patient may be suffering from depression. In order to do this, physicians resort to short questionnaires that ask about symptoms of depression and look for evidence that the child may suffer from it. While this was the method of the past, research has shown that these questionnaires do not accurately screen ages six to 18 years – the prime age for these screenings. Instead, researchers questioned the use of these assessment tools for this age group and pointed out the risk of misdiagnosis of depression in this age group.
During the study, researchers found that existing screening tools identified non-depressed children as depressed. Not only is there a risk that the disease will go unidentified in children who need help, but children who are not depressed may even be diagnosed and medicated for a condition that they don’t have.
Unfortunately, the issue is the testing of the screening tools themselves. In order to accurately assess the quality of a screening tool that is being used, the research team had to do an exhaustive search of medical evidence. They sought out studies that put screening tools to the test. In the end, they identified 17 studies where the test results from the screening tools were compared to results from diagnostic interviews, and found that the children actually had depression.
The methodology was then assessed from those 17 studies. It was discovered that most of the studies were too small in order to make a determination about the accuracy of the screening tool in the first place. All of the screening tools’ accuracy fell short of the expected standards – even in the studies. Researchers found that there was also inadequate evidence to recommend any single cut-off score for the questionnaires themselves. Typically, patients who score above a predefined cut-off score were considered depressed, while patients below that cut-off were not. But, researchers found that this cut-off point was inaccurate itself.
Researchers concluded that there is no single tool that has moderate evidence to suggest that it is accurate enough to diagnose a child’s depression. Also, if a physician incorrectly picks up on certain symptoms, he or she can easily diagnose a child who is not depressed with depression. The depression screening is controversial and, with this new data, it has become even more so.
Depression in children is a serious, crippling condition that leads to behavioral problems, school hindrances, and more. Routine screening for this disease in this age group is controversial already – especially because it is recommended for children between 13 and 18 years of age, even if they do not exhibit symptoms.
The inaccuracy of the screening tool itself leads to further questions. With children being mislabeled as depressed, it begs the question as to how many children may be diagnosed and medicated in the United States for a condition that they don’t actually have – and worse, how many depressed children are going without treatment because of the inaccuracies of these screening tools?
If your child was misdiagnosed as depressed and forced to take medication, or if your child’s depression went undiagnosed, you may have a case for malpractice against the negligent physician. The only way to see if your case qualifies for compensation is by contacting a Connecticut medical malpractice attorney. Contact Berkowitz and Hanna LLC today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation. Call 866-479-7909 or contact us online to get started.