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Socrates A. Garrigos, MD, PA

How We Handle Complex Diagnoses

Feb 14, 2024
How We Handle Complex Diagnoses
Getting to the bottom of unexplained symptoms and health problems isn’t always easy — but it’s almost always possible with the right approach. Learn more about how we handle a complex diagnosis, and find out what you can expect from the process.

By the time the average patient receives an accurate diagnosis for a complex condition, they’ve seen multiple healthcare providers over months or even years. 

 Knowing what makes a medical problem complex is vital to understanding how Dr. Socrates Garrigos handles complex diagnoses — and what that might mean for you when you arrive at Socrates A. Garrigos, MD, PA, in McAllen, Texas, with a chronic health problem characterized by wide-ranging symptoms and multi-systemic effects. 

 Here, we take a closer look at the various factors that go into making a complex diagnosis and what you can expect along the way with our internal medicine specialists.  

1. Exhaustive symptom review

The entry point for any complex diagnosis involves taking stock of the unexplained symptoms that brought you into our office. In most cases, these “non-specific” symptoms could indicate a variety of possible underlying causes, including:

  • What they are (their nature and severity)
  • When they first appeared; how often they emerge
  • Whether you’ve ever had them in the past
  • If you’ve noticed any potential symptom triggers 
  • If something makes them better or worse

We also ask you about any medications or supplements you’re taking and, if pertinent, any major life changes, events, or stressors that may coincide with your health issues.   

2. Complete health history intake  

After reviewing your symptoms, we undertake a health history covering your medical and known family history.  We may ask about any chronic illnesses you have and how you manage them; we may also ask about significant past health concerns, illnesses, injuries, or surgeries.

Next, we go over your family history, asking about chronic conditions — such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, or autoimmune disorders — that any first-degree family members (i.e., parent, siblings, children) have been diagnosed with.  

3. Comprehensive physical exam

After a symptom and health history intake, we perform a comprehensive physical. During this standard exam, we measure your vitals, listen to your heart and lungs, and check your ears, eyes, abdomen, and reflexes. We may also perform a few additional checks depending on the nature of your symptoms.  

4. Targeted diagnostic testing 

At this point in the process, we likely have a working list of potential conditions related to your symptoms. To work toward confirming our suspicions — while simultaneously ruling out other possibilities — we often order additional diagnostic testing. 

Initial testing recommendations are based on your symptoms and might include: 

  • Laboratory tests (blood or urine)
  • Imaging tests (i.e., X-ray, ultrasound)
  • Tissue sample evaluation (biopsy)


Our in-house diagnostic services make this process easier, as many of the early tests you may need are also available in our office. We also arrange any specialist testing necessary for working out your diagnosis (i.e., MRI, CT scan). 

5. Differential diagnosis opinion

Based on our in-depth assessment of your symptoms, medical history, and testing results, we may be able to pinpoint what’s causing your symptoms and make an official diagnosis — or we may create a differential diagnosis opinion with a narrowed list of likely possibilities. 

6. Continued evaluation as needed

While a differential diagnosis is one step closer to a final diagnosis, it calls for further testing and evaluation. The nature of the recommended testing (i.e. neurological exam, endoscopy, thyroid testing) depends on the health conditions we’re investigating.     

7. Coordinated care with specialists

In most cases, a continued process of assessment and elimination can help us reach a final, official diagnosis, and we can get started on a recommended treatment plan. Given that most complex health conditions involve an intricate interplay between genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors, expect your treatment plan to be comprehensive and multi-faceted.   

Often, this means developing a coordinated care plan with a team of specialists to help you better manage the various aspects of your condition, prevent complications, and protect your long-term health. 

Do you have questions about complex diagnoses? We have answers. Call us today, or use our easy online booking feature to schedule an appointment at Socrates A. Garrigos, MD, PA, in McAllen, Texas, anytime.