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

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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 while you travel through this other world as unknown as it is unexpected. When I see patients in the hospital or in my office who are suddenly, surprisingly ill, what they really want to know is, ‘What is wrong with me?’ They want a road map that will help them manage their new surroundings. The ability to give this unnerving and unfamiliar place a name, to know it–on some level–restores a measure of control, independent of whether or not that diagnosis comes attached to a cure. Because, even today, a diagnosis is frequently all a good doctor has to offer.

A healthy young man suddenly loses his memory–making him unable to remember the events of each passing hour. Two patients diagnosed with Lyme disease improve after antibiotic treatment–only to have their symptoms mysteriously return. A young woman lies dying in the ICU–bleeding, jaundiced, incoherent–and none of her doctors know what is killing her. In Every Patient Tells a Story, Dr. Lisa Sanders takes us bedside to witness the process of solving these and other diagnostic dilemmas, providing a firsthand account of the expertise and intuition that lead a doctor to make the right diagnosis.

Never in human history have doctors had the knowledge, the tools, and the skills that they have today to diagnose illness and disease. And yet mistakes are made, diagnoses missed, symptoms or tests misunderstood. In this high-tech world of modern medicine, Sanders shows us that knowledge, while essential, is not sufficient to unravel the complexities of illness. She presents an unflinching look inside the detective story that marks nearly every illness–the diagnosis–revealing the combination of uncertainty and intrigue that doctors face when confronting patients who are sick or dying. Through dramatic stories of patients with baffling symptoms, Sanders portrays the absolute necessity and surprising difficulties of getting the patient’s story, the challenges of the physical exam, the pitfalls of doctor-to-doctor communication, the vagaries of tests, and the near calamity of diagnostic errors. In Every Patient Tells a Story, Dr. Sanders chronicles the real-life drama of doctors solving these difficult medical mysteries that not only illustrate the art and science of diagnosis, but often save the patients’ lives.

304 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Lisa Sanders

23 books151 followers
Lisa Sanders, M.D., is an internist on the faculty of the Yale University School of Medicine. She writes the monthly column Diagnosis for The New York Times Magazine, is the author of Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis, and served as a technical advisor on Fox TV's House, M.D. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 666 reviews
Profile Image for Petra X played the long game - and won.
2,383 reviews33.9k followers
December 30, 2022
Review This was only so so, I can't think how to write a review. It's so much easier to write reviews of really good or really awful books, but ones in the middle... It was an interesting concept, concentrating on diagnosis told through the stories of people who couldn't get a definitive one. But it failed with the execution. The author is an internist and writes a column for the New York Times and I think maybe she just can't write longform and is best at short, punchy stories of medical mysteries.

This is the second book of hers I've read, the other is Diagnosis: Solving the Most Baffling Medical Mysteries, obviously along the same lines. But both are just 3 stars. I don't have time for 3 star books in my life.

Read October 2019, reviewed December 2022! I'm surprised I can still remember it.
Profile Image for India M. Clamp.
203 reviews
December 28, 2021
Lisa Sanders is 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 is an endeavor. From cogwheeling in Parkinson's to breast cancer, its consensus that Dx—-diagnosis—-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 who died). Inspiring and sad. Buy.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Reese.
163 reviews63 followers
November 16, 2016
I didn't think it was possible for a book about medical problems to bore me. I now know that it's possible. Yep, Every Patient Tells a Story 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."

Profile Image for Kristen Nace.
145 reviews
May 5, 2010
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.
Profile Image for Shreya ♡.
128 reviews135 followers
April 19, 2022
If someone, who is thinking of pursuing a career in medicine, reads this book, they may find it quite useful, or at least thought provoking as this book is all about the importance of listening to the patient without any hurry or too much interruption (even I prefer a doctor who allows me to finish my sentence :3)

...and how this practice can make a huge difference in proper diagnosis. (because that earns patient's trust, and they disclose everything, even the most embarrassing details, which may come across as the most vital information in the long run. I guess you know that already if you've watched House MD XD)

But hoping for some interesting and bizarre medical case studies, the ones only Dr House can solve- would most likely result in disappointment, like many other reviewers experienced the same because this book doesn't contain many of them.

In other words, this book is not as interesting as "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat", but the right kind of reader will appreciate this book. ♡
Profile Image for Andy.
1,320 reviews456 followers
May 18, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Angela.
1,794 reviews
December 16, 2010
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).
Profile Image for মাশুদুল হক.
Author 13 books659 followers
October 29, 2015
অসাধারণ বই, মেডিসিনে যদি ক্যারিয়ার করি তাহলে সেই পথ বেছে নেয়াতে এ বইয়ের একটা ভূমিকা থাকবে!
ডায়াগনসিস একটা আর্ট সেটা মেডিসিনে স্বত:সিদ্ধ কথা। যে ডাক্তার ভাল ডায়াগনসিস করেন তিনি যেন কোনান ডয়েলের শার্লক হোমসের মতই, তাই কঠিন প্রায় প্রত্যেকটা ডায়াগনসিস এক একটা গল্পের মত, যেকোন ডিটেকটিভ গল্পকে হার মানানোর মতই সেসব গল্পের ট্যুইস্ট।
এটা যারা জনপ্রিয় মেডিকেল টিভি সিরিজ House, MD দেখেছে তারা সবাই জানে। ঘটনাক্রমে এ বইয়ের লেখিকাও সেই সিরিজের একজন পরামর্শদাতা- তাই স্বভাবতই সে ধরনের বেশ কিছু ঘটনা এখানে আছে। তবে সিরিজের মত ঘটনাবহুল নয় এর প্রতিটা চ্যাপ্টার। বরঞ্চ কিছু কিছু জায়গায় ছোটখাট ব্যাপার নিয়ে দীর্ঘ আলোচনা আছে, এটা কারো কারো বিরক্ত লাগতে পারে, তবে আমার কাছে দারুণ উপভোগ্য মনে হয়েছে।
নন মেডিকেল কারো পড়তে সমস্যা হবে না, কেননা তাদের কথা মাথায় রেখেই ভাষা ঠিক করা হয়েছে। আর মেডিকেল পারসনদের জন্য এটা অসাধারণ ব্রেন স্টর্মিং, ইগনোর করার মত বিষয়গুলো এত ডিটেইলস আলোচনা করা হয়েছে যে অনেক কিছুরই নতুন করে গুরুত্ব বুঝেছি।

Profile Image for Hasnat Sujon.
35 reviews13 followers
June 22, 2020
Several years ago when I was an Intern, I was chit-chatting with Dr. Sambita Chakravarty in the Pediatrics duty doctors' room. A bearded-man in a knee long panjabi with his wife peeked through the door. The wife had their son on her lap. He was Jamal. 8 years. The man had an anxious face- definitely for his son. I couldn't see the face of the wife as it was covered in a Burqa. She must be anxious. After all she was a mother.

I asked, 'what is the problem?'

Jamal had a fever for about a week. But his main problem was he had a pain in a specific site of the right chest. Sometimes the pain became unbearable.

I looked at the face of Jamal and became a bit surprised. The normal skittishness of an eight years old was absent in him. He behaved like a sixty years old. He had black eyes and nicely combed hair.

His parents went to consult a professor of Internal Medicine (who was also my teacher). The professor advised him an X-ray and blood test. There was a classic textbook image of lung abscess in the X-ray and an elevated WBC count in the blood test. Following investigation, the professor advised the parents to get Jamal admitted in the pediatrics department. As a result, I got to meet Jamal and his family.

I carried Jamal to the examination table. There were typical findings of lung abscess. We got him admitted.

Next day, in the morning session, we told Prof. Dr. Barun Kanti Biswas, head of the Pediatrics department that a boy was admitted with lung abscess in the previous afternoon. Prof. Biswas listened to the history of the patient. He then asked Jamal, 'what is your name, boy?' Jamal answered, 'Jamal'. He asked again, 'Which class are you in?' Jamal answered, 'in class two.'

Then Dr. Biswas looked at us and said, 'this is not a case of lung abscess.'

We showed him the X-ray. He looked at the X-ray for a while and then said, 'this is not a case of lung abscess. Advise an ultra-sonogram of the chest.'

We took Jamal to the Radiology and Imaging department. Following USG, the report came- a case of lung abscess.

We notified the professor about the USG report. He looked at the image and said, 'whatever in the report, it is not a case of lung abscess. Advise a CT scan of chest'. We looked at Prof. Biswas and scratched our head. CT scan is an expensive investigation.

However, we managed to go for CT scan.

In the following day, Dr. Biswas himself had asked, 'what is the CT report?'
-Benign developmental cyst.
-Yes. This patient needs surgery. Treat him accordingly.

We asked Prof. Biswas, why did he thought it was not a case of lung abscess in the presence of so much supporting evidences? He answered, 'because I could talk with the patient. If it was a lung abscess, you couldn't talk with the patient due to the foul odor.'

While reading this book I was thinking of Prof. Biswas. The author explained with example after example, how can a small overlooked clue change the diagnosis? How each and every components on the path to diagnosis is important? For instance, in this case of Jamal, several diseases could make this problem- we doctors call them differential diagnosis. Lung abscess was one of the differential diagnosis and the most probable one. Dr. Biswas changed his diagnosis only with a simple clue. 'I was not amazed because he was right. I was amazed because of his thinking.'

Dr. Sanders said, 'thinking stops when a diagnosis is made'. And sometimes a very tiny clue becomes the most important one.

Highly recommended for the doctors.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,168 reviews541 followers
January 16, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Carissa.
301 reviews1 follower
November 8, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Daina Chakma.
333 reviews598 followers
August 24, 2019
“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.”

This book is a piece of Art and I can't get enough of it!
Profile Image for Diana.
1,508 reviews85 followers
May 15, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Cris.
563 reviews22 followers
February 24, 2022
Will is reading this for his “Medicine and Humanities” class and in the spirit of “one tuition, two educations” I’m reading along. This book mainly talks about the diagnostic process and it’s difficulties. The author was a consultant for House MD. She explains the clear parallelism between House and Sherlock and furthermore how Conan Doyle based Sherlock on a Scottish surgeon, named Joseph Bell:

“Joseph Bell, for whom he’d worked during his medical training. Like Holmes, Bell frequently wore a deerstalker cap, smoked a pipe, and was often observed using a magnifying glass. But the most important trait they shared was a keen eye for detail combined with remarkable deductive powers.”

A lot of the book is a look at medicine as a Sherlockian endeavor. The cases are mysteries that need unraveling. But it is also a book with an agenda: bring back the physical examination of patients, stop relaying only on tests and technology. I enjoyed how Yale centric this book is (including M. Chun appearances and visits to the Yale center for British Art to learn how to observe on paintings instead of patients).
Another important element that Sanders brings forth is how practicing medicine is not only examining patients and finding what ails them, the doctor must be able to listen to her patient’s stories and be a storyteller as well. Unless the doctor can tell the patient a story about her disease that the patient understands and accepts, the healing is not possible. Dr Sanders illustrates this with a dramatic case where a woman will keep suffering terribly because her doctor could not tell the story of her illness in a way the patient could accept it. I think this part of the equation is what makes doctors who are educated in the humanities more adept.
There is also a dose of Dr Sanders bio in the book, this brings her closer and makes her more relatable until the last chapter when we bond with her over personal tragedy.
Excellent book!! I’m very excited hoping Dr Sanders will visit Will’s class to talk about the book. This things are what makes learning thrilling!
Profile Image for Mehtap exotiquetv.
343 reviews235 followers
February 1, 2021
Diagnosen. Darf man erwarten, dass Ärzte immer zu 100% und sofort eine richtige Diagnose stellen? Warum das eine überzogene Erwartungshaltung ist, zeigt uns die Autorin und erklärt anhand von echten Patienten-Arzt Besuchen, die einen Einblick in die Diagnosen geben.

Warum es eben nicht immer sofort einleuchtend ist, an was die Person erkrankt ist. Sehr spannende Patientengeschichten. Gerade die Perspektive aus der Sicht eines Arztes, fördert mein persönliches Verständnis für diesen Berufszweig und die Schwierigkeit, die dieser Beruf mit sich bringt.
40 reviews34 followers
January 21, 2019
To start off with, I love medicine but I don't love this book.

This book was recommended by a professor of mine who's doing her research on clinical reasoning. Needless to say, I dived into this book in the excitement that I would be able to enhance my clinical reasoning skill.

Instead, the further I read, the more I felt repulsed by the book. This is not the medicine I knew of. Day in day out, medical students are taught to take a thorough history and perform our physical examination properly. We go through the routine under the hawk eye of our supervisors. We try hard to perfect our skills. Probably it's a different culture out there, probably I've not been to enough hospitals to experience the "lost art" of physical examinations.

Furthermore, some of the unusual cases presented did not seem so "hard to crack" for me. It just succeeded in making the doctors treating the patients appear very careless and clueless towards their profession.

Few things I like about the book that kept me continue reading is the way the author portrayed the patients, without forgetting that they are human with disease, not just as a case per se - which, surprisingly, doctors need to be reminded of this fact constantly. And thus, she makes the book readable for people from all walks of life. The chapters on Lyme disease (which is uncommon in my country) and digital diagnosis are enlightening as well.

Perhaps few years down the line, I might reread this book and see it in a different light. However, I do hope I don't need this book to remind me to listen to my patients' story closely and examine them properly.
Profile Image for Mary.
806 reviews15 followers
August 25, 2019
Dr. Sanders book highlights how physicians spend less time on initial examinations of patients and rely on test results. Examples of clues missed because of the decline of the hands on approach go on to explore the complex and difficult world of a medical diagnosis and treatment.

Interesting reading discussing the role for computers in diagnosing disease and the generally successfully tactic of calling a knowledgeable colleague to help find the answer. Lots of medical mysteries for those of you like to read them. The last chapter is a very personal story of what happened to the author’s sister.
Profile Image for Patricia.
618 reviews20 followers
January 11, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Akash Saha.
101 reviews9 followers
April 18, 2022
An amazing book! This book reveals the ideas about diagnosis, how doctors think, what mistakes they make. Also unveiled the future of the diagnostic procedures. A must read book for all future medicine aspirants!!!
Profile Image for Becca.
39 reviews1 follower
January 24, 2012
Oh my god this book was AMAZING. I am so grateful that Amy let me read this book. It might seem boring because it's a medical book but honestly it's not. This book is a bunch of stories about diagnosising people and how one tiny detail the others. One of the most memorable story that I read was about a girl who constantly smoked weed (marijuana) and got nausea from it. When the doctors found out it was the weed that made her feel this way they told the patient. To my surprise she got angry at them!! They told her if she stopped smoking she would be fine but she refused to accept that marijuana was doing this to her. My mind was like what is wrong with you?! Let it go for your health sake. Another story I enjoyed was when you learn how a small detail can change the whole situation. For example a nurse was taking the temperature of a patient who just arrived at the hospital. The nurse couldn't get a blood pressure from the left arm but didn't say anything. The patient later died because of that detail.

This book is truly amazing. You don't have to be into the medical field to enjoy this book. There are so many stories in this book that there is one for everyone to enjoy and favor. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone who is willing to give this book a try.
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,740 reviews279 followers
March 16, 2016
I like some odd genres: Books about Books...Books about People Who Move and Start Over...Books about Cooking...and the genre this book falls into, Books about Doctors.

Don't ask me why.

Books like this one fascinate me. I'm struck by the way doctors work on people's bodies using a clever combination of science and intuition.

This is a particularly intriguing book to me as it deals with the art of diagnosis, using scientific knowledge along with experience and hunches, to figure out why things aren't right with a person.

The author started out in television and ended up becoming a medical doctor. She seems to have just the right combination of knowledge about medicine and ability to write well to create this book.

Very good book.
Profile Image for Raizel.
41 reviews9 followers
July 6, 2021
I’m a huge fan of House, MD, and I’m a medical student, so of course I wanted to read this book. Dr. Sanders’ past as a reporter is clear, as she tells the stories with a reporter’s precision. I also loved testing my own diagnostic skills while reading. I would think to myself, “what test would I order next?” and “what disease or category of disease do I think is happening?”

Overall this was a fun read. It’s also totally accessible to the non-medical person. Dr. Sanders is careful to define any medical jargon she uses. I love the puzzle of diagnostics, the human stories it necessitates. Diagnosis was a perfect backdrop for a hit TV show… the stakes are high and the puzzle is fascinating.
Profile Image for Jell.
130 reviews32 followers
August 7, 2013
From the writer of the series House M.D, Dr. Lisa Sanders. Great read. Recommended for doctors and med students!

Update: August 7,2013

I got what I wanted and more. This book doesn't only give information but wisdom and inspiration for every medical student who wants to forge a refreshing and exciting path for himself/herself in the medical arena. Truly a book for all (and not just medical students).
Profile Image for Cynthia Sedlezky.
23 reviews2 followers
December 14, 2022
Interesting stuff! Makes you realize what it's kind of like to think like a doctor. I had no idea that a doctor was really just an empathetic detective!!! Cool stuff.

Here are quotes I liked:

- Details that dont make sense r sometimes skipped and turn out later to be the most important
- Typical diagnoses are most likely to be made by the most and the least experienced doctors
- Most senior have most experience and allows them to see many possibilities
- Novice has no expectations so no stuff is « filtered out » I.e. no experienced based vid that would bar them from looking at the whole picture
- Over 70% of breast cancers are detected by women who feel a lump in their breast ; mammograms account for 20%; physical exam by physician detects 5%
- 20% - 45%(women) of appendix removals used to take place on healthy appendix when ppl come in complaining of belly pain! Bad appendix is potentially fatal, so was seen as still better than risk of dying. Now CT scans routinely done and can reduce that to 1%. But those how need a CT have to wait hours and then damage could be done by the appendix. The physical exam can substitute in and make it obvious which ones r truly sick appendixes without needing to wait or pay for costly exam!
- Prostate cancer 2x more common in black men than white, less common in Korean men; irresponsable of physician not to take this into account when black man presents w urinary symptoms
- Patients near more than correct diagnosis (more than just right treatment for right disorder): also: encouragement, to be heard, sympathy, emotional support
Profile Image for Karnish Thakkar.
7 reviews9 followers
July 28, 2018
Good things :

-Acknowledgment of amazing internist Faith Fitzgerald,Dr.Joseph bell the real inspiration of Sherlock holmes for arther conan doyle(so technically house m.d. medical series was inspired by Sherlock detective series which was inspired by dr bell medical man),Giovanni Battista the anatomy guy,rené theophylline hyacinth laennec the stetho guy.
-evolution of the definition of disease (symptoms~organ dysfunction ~&then add objective observations )
-importance of autopsy & physical exam
-I personally like the history of Lyme disease
-and yeah as the title suggests stories of patients

Bad thing in good things:

there should be more mysterious stuff , more stories

Bad things:

It felt like author’s memoir I didn’t sign up for that
And author had focused on to much tedious observation ,reiteration of physical examination(p.e.),dull research studies.

Good thing in bad things:

P.e. Is so much important

Favourite quote: television reaches millions but touches few
Profile Image for Chris.
70 reviews22 followers
January 18, 2021
this spoke to a large chunk of the population with chronic health conditions (including myself) who have suffered due to the miscommunication and discrepancy between doctor and patient and I'm glad it exists because of that
Profile Image for Amy.
Author 2 books149 followers
January 18, 2010
A while back, I heard that a Dr Lisa Sanders was the medical consultant for one of my favorite TV shows, House. The name rang a bell because it was the same as one of my best friends from high school -- only the last I'd heard, she was a producer at CBS. Through the miracle of FaceBook, after several decades we reconnected. My Lisa had indeed had a career change and now was a physician. Twists and turns of fate had led her to write a medical column for the New York Times, which in turn led to the offer to be the consultant for a new show about a narcissistic, curmudgeonly, drug addicted, brilliant physician. As she tells the story, she figured she'd say yes, because the show surely wouldn't be around too long. I think this year is season 6. The show is a huge hit, due in large part to the talents of Hugh Laurie (one of my all-time favorite actors), who plays the unconventional Gregory House. Lisa came to town on her book tour and we spent a lovely day together. When she left, I had two great things: a reconnection with an old friend and a signed copy of Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis.

The Medical Mystery bits were definitely my favorites. I am a nurse, and have seen far too much in my 29 years of practice to be surprised by anything that happens in health care. Lisa's investigation of diagnoses, where we came from, where we are and where we are heading was interesting, but I guess I'm a gossip at heart and wanted to get to the "juicy" bits: the case studies and how the mysteries were solved. All in all, the book was quite readable and informative (though I kept hearing her voice in my head as I read.) I wonder how it would be for someone non-medical, or for someone who is rather jaded on our current health care system. Lisa definitely conveys the angst of being suddenly and dramatically ill for the patient, and the problems faced and battled by physicians seeking to help them.

I do love that Lisa has met Hugh Laurie and pronounced him a terrific person. She gave him a copy of the book to read, and then gushed, "And he actually read it!" I love his blurb on the front cover:
“If you need to be reminded that there are still diseases that can’t be cured in an hour—including commercial breaks—then this book is for you. Fantastic stuff.”
Profile Image for Richard.
590 reviews15 followers
March 10, 2018
This book may not be what you expect it to be. As you can see by the other reviews, many readers were disappointed because it did not meet their exceptions. Perhaps it needs a different title such as "Putting Human Contact Back into Medical Practice" or "Doctors and Patients are not Machines".

I love reading the "Vital Signs" section of Discover magazine and find the cases in the TV show "House" (Sanders is the medical consultant) fascinating. However, this book is not a simple case by case study of unusual or difficult to diagnose/treat diseases. Instead, Lisa Sanders shares the difficulties of being a doctor at this point in history. She feels that doctors over rely on machines for insight into patient problems, that they are squeezed by time and money pressures so that they rush into a diagnosis and treatment, and that there is a resistance to change that keeps bad practices in the profession. In particular, she focuses on the lack of use and training in the area of physical examinations and listening to the patient.

I found this book fascinating. There were a few times when I thought Sander's belabored a point but, overall, this book was a very engaging read. The cases cited were interesting and the detailed history Sander's gives provides you a clear insight into the causes of the disease, the problems in the diagnosis, and the issues of treatment.

I think there is a lot in this book that can help doctors become better listeners and diagnosticians. Perhaps more important, there is a lot here to help patients be their own best advocates.

Profile Image for Risa.
17 reviews23 followers
December 20, 2014
As a medical scientist, and someone just generally into medical anything, this book seemed like an obvious choice. The "Every Patient Tells a Story" sounds like House, MD in a book format. SIGN ME UP! Unfortunately, uh, there are hardly any patient stories. This is one long book on the benefits of the physical exam. Sure the author throw us a bone here and there, in the form of a very brief patient case, then followed by yet another 50 pages about the physical exam and 10 more pages full of statistics about how doctors don't know how to use a stethoscope. I don't even disagree with the doctor, everything she says is true, but it's just so monotonous. I would recommend this to any health care professional who performs (or should be performing) physical exams on patients. Anyone else: skip it or borrow it so you can skim through to read the few interesting sections without feeling like you wasted your money.
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