Heart Attack Misdiagnosis
A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, occurs when blood vessels leading to the heart experience blockage so that the heart muscle is denied blood flow and oxygen. When the heart lacks oxygen, part or all of the heart muscle is damaged.
Heart attacks are frequently treated in Emergency Rooms as over 14 million Americans suffer from heart attacks and heart disease. When a person is experiencing a heart attack, there is nothing more important than early diagnosis and timely treatment as misdiagnosis could lead to a wrongful death.
A heart attack can present with many symptoms, including, but not necessarily limited to:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Dizziness and anxiety
- Irregular or increased heart rain
- Pain or numbness into the face or jaw
- Pain or numbness in one or both arms
Additionally, women often experience much different and often milder symptoms than men. Such symptoms include:
- Upper back or shoulder pain
- Jaw pain
- Severe fatigue
It is critical that medical professionals treat symptoms of a heart attack quickly and thoroughly. An electrocardiogram (EKG) and blood enzyme test can assist in diagnosing a heart attack. It may be necessary to monitor potential heart attack victims for at least 24 hours even if the EKG and blood enzyme tests are normal.
If a heart attack is diagnosed, doctors may administer medication to dissolve the blood clot or blockage in the vessels leading to the heart to minimize damage to the heart muscle. Blockage can also be treated with stents placed with the assistance of angiograms and cardiac catheterizations. Bypass surgery may also be needed.
Because heart attacks vary from patient to patient in both the symptoms they exhibit and the severity of these symptoms, there are situations when cases can be misdiagnosed. Common misdiagnoses include:
- Cardiac spasm
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Panic or anxiety attack
- Gastrointestinal problems
A patient may also be the victim of a failure to diagnose a heart attack. Emergency Room medical providers (doctors and nurses) may fail to recognize the signs or symptoms of heart attacks and release a patient. A cardiologist may fail to recognize a blockage during a cardiac catheterization or may believe a lesion is a spasm when in fact, it is a true blockage.
If a patient does not receive critical tests and treatment when experiencing a heart attack, or if the condition is misdiagnosed, the emergency room medical staff may be determined to be negligent in their level of care. As a result, the patient may have irreversible heart damage, heart aneurysm, stroke, paralysis and possibly death.
The effects of such a misdiagnosis are clearly severe. Patients may die or be left with devastating health issues as well as a host of financial and emotional problems. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help patients determine if misdiagnosis of a heart attack is in fact the result of medical malpractice. Our Louisville medical malpractice lawyer can also assist clients in assessing the present and future financial effects of such a misdiagnosis.
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