Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis

Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis

A riveting exploration of the most difficult and important part of what doctors do, by Yale School of Medicine physician Dr. Lisa Sanders, author of the monthly New York Times Magazine column "Diagnosis," the inspiration for the hit Fox TV series House, M.D.The experience of being ill can be like waking up in a foreign country. Life, as you formerly knew it, is on hold...

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Title:Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis
Author:Lisa Sanders
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Edition Language:English

Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis Reviews

  • Tukunjil Nayeera

    This book is a piece of Art and I can't get enough of it!

  • Patricia

    I have avidly followed the author's columns about diagnosing tough medical cases in the New York Times Magazine for years, but I just recently became aware that she wrote a book that was published in 2009. I found it fascinating! It reminded me of the humanity of doctors. I am grateful to live in a time where it is possible to find so much medical information online (with the caveat of looking at reputable and peer reviewed sources, of course). That said, I believe the doctor has a vital role in

    I have avidly followed the author's columns about diagnosing tough medical cases in the New York Times Magazine for years, but I just recently became aware that she wrote a book that was published in 2009. I found it fascinating! It reminded me of the humanity of doctors. I am grateful to live in a time where it is possible to find so much medical information online (with the caveat of looking at reputable and peer reviewed sources, of course). That said, I believe the doctor has a vital role in the health care system and this book made me more appreciative of the work they do.

  • Kristen Nace

    As a medical lab tech, this book was fascinating to me. I spend my weekends working in the local hospital running diagnostic tests of all kinds. Often, I will come to know a patient ( eventhough I never see their face) through their lab resutls. I will make and view a slide of their CBC and count their different white cells. i will take note of their panic potassiums and calciums, their low hemoglobin, etc. and call these results to an er doctor and will often hear an "A-HA!" from the doctor as

    As a medical lab tech, this book was fascinating to me. I spend my weekends working in the local hospital running diagnostic tests of all kinds. Often, I will come to know a patient ( eventhough I never see their face) through their lab resutls. I will make and view a slide of their CBC and count their different white cells. i will take note of their panic potassiums and calciums, their low hemoglobin, etc. and call these results to an er doctor and will often hear an "A-HA!" from the doctor as the test result has confirmed their initial diagnosis. But i also get to hear their puzzled questions when the test result doesn't fit their hypothesis. I will never forget the first time a pdeiatrician stood next to me as I looked at a baby's spinal fluid and when I told him there were no white cells in the fluid (it looked completely normal) he seemed baffled. i asked him what he was going to do next and he shook his head, sighed and said "I don't know." Yikes! This book is all about how doctors come (or in many cases don't come ) to the final correct diagnosis. The author is the doctor who advises the writers of House. She has wrtten a thoughtful and interesting book. Before I became a lab tech I used to think doctors were the smartest people in the world, then i came to see they are smart about their particular areas of knowledge, but jsut like any of us, they make mistakes. Not a comforting book - but well worth the read.

  • Diana

    In this book, Lisa Sanders who originally wrote a column for the New York Times Magazine looks into why it can be so difficult to diagnose what is wrong with a patient. She also looks into why a doctor can get it wrong. As someone who had to deal with a lot of nope it's not that let's do some more tests, I thought the book was fascinating. I couldn't believe how many times a diagnosis was found because someone asked a colleague to look at a chart. It was an unusual subject and I really loved

    In this book, Lisa Sanders who originally wrote a column for the New York Times Magazine looks into why it can be so difficult to diagnose what is wrong with a patient. She also looks into why a doctor can get it wrong. As someone who had to deal with a lot of nope it's not that let's do some more tests, I thought the book was fascinating. I couldn't believe how many times a diagnosis was found because someone asked a colleague to look at a chart. It was an unusual subject and I really loved getting an insight into it.

  • Carissa

    Dead on with my experience as a complicated, chronic patient, but what makes it so good to me is that it’s from the perspective of doctors who admit the faults of medicine, the diagnostic process, the tendency to blow things off if there’s not something “normal” and initial, basic tests come back normal, the lack of desire to pursue things further, and the common problem of misdiagnosing a patient simply to give them a diagnosis (thinking they should know everything) to the detriment of the

    Dead on with my experience as a complicated, chronic patient, but what makes it so good to me is that it’s from the perspective of doctors who admit the faults of medicine, the diagnostic process, the tendency to blow things off if there’s not something “normal” and initial, basic tests come back normal, the lack of desire to pursue things further, and the common problem of misdiagnosing a patient simply to give them a diagnosis (thinking they should know everything) to the detriment of the patient. It’s great to read a book by a physician who is honest about the imperfections of medicine and the importance of not saying “it must be in your head” just because they can’t find anything extraordinary. There is almost always something there if the doctor is willing to refer patients, do some research, spend more time LISTENING to the patient, and not assume it’s something as simple as the common flu...especially when it lingers. I took pictures of many passages in this book because they are dead on and I know a few docs who need to read them! It make take years to nail down a diagnosis, but it’s harmful for doctors to make a diagnosis without strong evidence just to appease the minds of patients.

  • India Clamp

    Lisa Sanders in not only a physician (Yale School of Medicine) she is a TV Producer. In fact, she was an Emmy winning producer at “CBS News” prior to becoming a clinician/educator at Yale. She gives us an in-depth contrast to the mechanics of diagnostic medicine to how it is done “in real time” at the patient's bedside.

    The physical exam and its' demise are a loss to medicine according to Sanders. Diagnosis is a true art and how to classify such to is an endeavor. From cogwheeling in Parkinson's

    Lisa Sanders in not only a physician (Yale School of Medicine) she is a TV Producer. In fact, she was an Emmy winning producer at “CBS News” prior to becoming a clinician/educator at Yale. She gives us an in-depth contrast to the mechanics of diagnostic medicine to how it is done “in real time” at the patient's bedside.

    The physical exam and its' demise are a loss to medicine according to Sanders. Diagnosis is a true art and how to classify such to is an endeavor. From cogwheeling in Parkinson's to breast cancer its consensus that Dx by touch and physical examination is sacrosanct.

    “In medicine, uncertainty is the water we swim in....A lot of the appeal of internal medicine is Sherlockian—solving the case from the clues. We are detectives; we revel in the process of figuring it all out. It’s what doctors most love to do.”

    —Lisa Sanders, MD

    “Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis,” is so descriptive, one cannot feign lack of curiosity as to the corkscrew shape of tick bacteria. We learn of the case of Julia--- hypokalemia and low potassium---common in alcoholics. Sanders discloses all (Julia was her sister). Inspiring and sad. Buy.

  • Andy

    If you like the author's column in the New York Times Magazine, you will like this book. It features well-written stories of so-called "medical mysteries." My problem is this frame of the "mystery" which makes it seem like these are very tough diagnoses and so the patients are just unlucky to have these weird diseases.

    Most of the time, the stories reveal diagnoses that could have been made much earlier, more safely and more cheaply if only the doctor had done something basic, like look at the

    If you like the author's column in the New York Times Magazine, you will like this book. It features well-written stories of so-called "medical mysteries." My problem is this frame of the "mystery" which makes it seem like these are very tough diagnoses and so the patients are just unlucky to have these weird diseases.

    Most of the time, the stories reveal diagnoses that could have been made much earlier, more safely and more cheaply if only the doctor had done something basic, like look at the chart, or consult any reference at all (even Google), or take a history, or do a physical exam. When you add all these failures together, and when Sanders points out how systemic they each are, then it's clear that there's something rotten going on.

    A good part of the book is going beyond the stories to try to get at why all these doctors are doing such a lousy job. The things she goes over are true, but in the end, I didn't feel that it all came together as a satisfying investigation of the problem. The book stayed too much in the "gee-whiz" zone of science/medicine reporting.

  • Jeanette

    This title is far more a memoir than it is a book that is directly focused on the subject matter of the title. And it also does not follow so much of her own autobiography path for becoming a medical doctor in any linear progressive order of time or experience level so you don't get that as a "whole" either. Instead it skips. And jumps to various chapter headings which almost randomly center on different aspects or various instruments of the patient physical examination by the medical doctor.

    This title is far more a memoir than it is a book that is directly focused on the subject matter of the title. And it also does not follow so much of her own autobiography path for becoming a medical doctor in any linear progressive order of time or experience level so you don't get that as a "whole" either. Instead it skips. And jumps to various chapter headings which almost randomly center on different aspects or various instruments of the patient physical examination by the medical doctor.

    These books usually mesmerize me. Although I read every word and appreciated many of her witnessed misdiagnosis or "troubled/ very ill and yet no answer for successful treatment" patients- I felt after about 1/2 the book that the verbiage of medical historic discoveries founders for techniques and equipment invention, those past century tales and myriads or other non-title related tangents- they all got in the way.

    It's good instruction for those who know little about medicine as a diagnosis skill set and also want to know more about a base physical examination. The one a medical doctor should be doing upon first patient arrival for a well visit or for a problem to report episode.

    These physical examinations of the patient (even on hospital check in) are not taught as they once were. Nor are all doctors depending on the physical exam to the extent that they did a mere few decades ago. Not only because of lab testing, but because of digital diagnosing.

    Overall, the writing style became just too tangent to piece out the essence of the connection to those physical examination skills. The listening, the feeling of touch response, the communication and the related context to the exact period of times involved. It is like a story, in some ways. But far more complex than just a story. You have to hear the silences and also tread into paths that don't reveal signs which warn or point to the features for the information that you don't know that you don't know.

    The reading became random memoir and quite tedious at points, as it wandered away from the subject of the diagnosis art. She entered the "tracking" and cognition skill testing too. Which I worked within for a few years, so I should have found it extremely interesting. But it seemed long-winded side explanations in the way she gets "around" the "invisible gorilla" test, for instance. Her writing became tedious, not exciting- as it could have been for such a subject. NOT seeing something that is quite there.

    There was a small omission too, I think. I wanted to hear more about how doctors listen as much as what they inquire about "the story". She flirted with that about 3 times but never really delved into selective hearing as she did the "seeing".

    She's probably an excellent doctor. Her memory and ability to sense emotive affect and side bars seem superior.

  • Angela

    I was a little disappointed in this book. The author is touted writes a column that gave rise to House MD so I expected lots of interesting case histories and weird maladies! Instead the book is a lot about how diagnosis is done and a boring eulogy for what the author describes as the death of the physical exam and the lack of training in basics for doctors. For those interested in the case history type thing I recommend instead Oliver Sachs (Awakening) and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

    I was a little disappointed in this book. The author is touted writes a column that gave rise to House MD so I expected lots of interesting case histories and weird maladies! Instead the book is a lot about how diagnosis is done and a boring eulogy for what the author describes as the death of the physical exam and the lack of training in basics for doctors. For those interested in the case history type thing I recommend instead Oliver Sachs (Awakening) and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (a book of bizarre neurological case histories).

  • Reese

    I didn't think it was possible for a book about medical problems to bore me. I now know that it's possible. Yep,

    managed to bore me. Boredom may not be an illness, but in this review, equating the two seems appropriate. I'm not starting with a potpourri of baffling symptoms and trying to arrive at a diagnosis. I have the diagnosis: boredom -- so my task is to identify the causes.

    Dr. Lisa Sanders' work reminds me of a medical file in that it's a disorganized

    I didn't think it was possible for a book about medical problems to bore me. I now know that it's possible. Yep,

    managed to bore me. Boredom may not be an illness, but in this review, equating the two seems appropriate. I'm not starting with a potpourri of baffling symptoms and trying to arrive at a diagnosis. I have the diagnosis: boredom -- so my task is to identify the causes.

    Dr. Lisa Sanders' work reminds me of a medical file in that it's a disorganized collection of pages rather than a logically arranged, tightly knit book. Like patients' medical records, it is packed with reiterative observations, and it is a mixture of the useful and the useless. Do readers really need to know that this doc wears a tie or that doc has wavy hair or another one is tall and thin? You get the picture, folks -- the picture that you weren't looking for. The flawed organization and unnecessary details might, however, be dismissed if what is missing from the book weren't stories. And I mean STORIES, not case studies, not accounts told from a doctor's point of view. Every BODY tells a story -- Dr. Sanders, you clearly want the medical community and your audience to recognize the importance of using various methods and tools to read and interpret those "stories." What happened to "every patient TELLS a story"? Granted, not always truthful, not always complete, but a story. Why, Dr. Sanders, don't we get the "stories" of the patients who are used to illustrate points -- stories like the ONE story in your book, the one that doesn't appear until the "Afterword"? It's the story of your sister who died at forty-two; and it's your story and the story of your other sisters and the story of the convergence of medicine, mystery, and memories. It was the cure for boredom that unfortunately came only after the "patient died."

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