Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.
It is often known as the “silent killer.”
As the plaque develops, the arteries narrow. Thus, making it difficult for blood to flow around the body and increasing the risk of a heart attack.
Heart attacks can come on suddenly. Most will start slowly and give you a warning; a quick medical response can be life-saving.
Do not be embarrassed to seek medical help, even if it is far less severe.
Time is of the essence in adequately diagnosing a heart attack or stroke.
If a medical professional has missed the warning signs and the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, you or your loved one can suffer severe consequences from the missed diagnosis.
WHAT IS A HEART ATTACK?
A heart attack can happen when a blockage in the heart’s arteries reduces or completely cuts off the oxygen-rich blood supply to a portion of the heart, also called an acute myocardial infarction (MI), damaging the heart muscle.
The doctors, nurses, and other emergency department staff must always be cognizant of the possibility that a myocardial infarction might be the factor bringing the patient to the hospital.
Unfortunately, such a medical emergency as a heart attack is often overlooked or misdiagnosed.
When a heart attack is diagnosed immediately and treatment is provided, the majority of patients can recover and go on to live their everyday lives.
On the other hand, if it isn’t correctly diagnosed, it can easily lead to permanent disability or death.
Negligence can play a factor when the patient is sent home undiagnosed, untreated, and ultimately lose their life.
WHAT IS HEART ATTACK MISDIAGNOSIS?
In the majority of cases, the ER staff can recognize a serious problem is about to occur or that they have a patient actively experiencing a heart attack.
To do this is by physical examination, observing the results of an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) and blood test, which contain a specific enzyme released when a person is actively experiencing a MI.
Obtaining a patient history is another key necessary in diagnosing the patient.
To do that, the medical staff must emphasize listening and the ability to keep an open mind.
When a doctor or nurse attributes the patient’s presentation as not life-threatening, it is time to run additional tests.
Even when a heart attack cannot be predicted nor prevented, having a prompt diagnosis and treatment has better odds of saving a patient’s life from a heart attack misdiagnosis and preventing permanent injury.
So who could be held liable for a MI misdiagnosis or a possible delayed diagnosis?
Those who experience chest pain or other classic heart attack symptoms seek help in a hospital emergency room.
However, heart attack patients with atypical symptoms may also go to the ER, unaware that a cardiac problem may cause their symptoms.
Many medical professionals in the ER can cause harm if they fail to diagnose a heart attack promptly.
Some of these healthcare providers include:
- Emergency room physicians
- Triage nurses
- Consulting cardiologists
- Interns and medical students
- Consulting physicians
It is known that some lower-volume emergency rooms have a much higher rate of myocardial infarction misdiagnosis than emergency rooms that treat a higher volume of patients.
It could be that smaller ERs have less experience diagnosing heart attacks and fewer resources to make an accurate diagnosis.
Medical professionals in settings other than the emergency room could also make a negligent diagnosis error.
Examples of other healthcare providers who could be negligent for a heart attack misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis include:
- Primary care doctors
- Family practitioners
- Urgent care centers doctors
- Physician assistants or Nurse Practitioners
- Lab technicians and other diagnostic professionals.
What causes heart attack victims to suffer from negligent or delayed diagnoses?
Symptoms that differ from those typically associated with heart attacks are a significant factor.
Studies have shown that female patients face an exceptionally high risk of having a heart attack misdiagnosed because of the atypical symptoms that women often present.
These atypical symptoms may include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Shortness of breath
- Back pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain that doesn’t radiate
- Heaviness of arms
- Epigastric burning
- Feeling flushed
These symptoms are different from the symptoms that men may have. These can include physical signs such as a headache or pains in the chest, jaw, shoulder, arm, neck, and between the shoulder blades.
Female MI patients could be misdiagnosed with psychiatric or emotional problems, anxiety, musculoskeletal problems, or indigestion.
Instead of receiving potentially life-saving treatments such as an emergency cardiology consult, nitroglycerin, aspirin, heparin, and thrombolytic agents, women may be more likely to receive antianxiety drugs or painkillers.
Medical professionals may overlook a heart attack in patients that are younger due to, statistically, they are less likely to have a MI.
Elderly heart attack victims are also at risk of a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis. Older patients often present with atypical symptoms, and many elderly patients could have other chronic illnesses that possibly could make it harder to diagnose a MI.
Even if an ER physician or other medical professional thinks that a patient may be having a heart attack, negligent errors in diagnostic testing could prevent a timely and accurate diagnosis.
What are the likely results of a heart attack misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis?
Failure to make a timely and accurate diagnosis of a heart attack can have severe consequences for the patient. Studies show that missed or delayed heart attack diagnoses are associated with adverse medical outcomes, including death.
Patients who survive a misdiagnosed heart attack or a delayed diagnosis often develop more complications than those who receive a correct diagnosis.
For example, a study revealed that nearly three-quarters of patients were readmitted to the hospital after a misdiagnosed heart attack.
WHAT TO DO AFTER A HEART ATTACK MISDIAGNOSIS
Injury due to myocardial infarction may cause sudden physical, emotional, and financial hardships for patients and their families.
It isn’t easy to think about seeking legal help during this time, but there are statutes of limitations for taking legal action.
Suppose you or someone you love has experienced serious injury or death, which you believe may have been due to the failure to prevent myocardial infarction or the failure to diagnose or treat heart attack timely.
In that case, you may be entitled to compensation, including:
- Current and future medical bills
- Current and future loss of wages
- Long-term disability
- Long-term care expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Burial expenses
How can I determine if my case involved either a negligent misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis of a heart attack?
A patient or the patient’s family will probably have many questions and concerns if a heart attack appears not diagnosed, misdiagnosed, or diagnosed too late.
It is common to ask whether medical providers could have caught the MI earlier and whether that might have saved the patient’s life or improved their heart health.
Severe injury or even death can result from a lack of response by doctors, emergency staff, and nurses. Failure to respond promptly or diagnose and treat accordingly may be grounds to file a medical malpractice claim. The dedicated lawyers at Clark & Associates in Oklahoma City can assess the facts of your case and guide you in the proper steps to take to recover damages for a malpractice suit.
Our team is experienced in reviewing cases involving heart attack misdiagnosis or delays in making a proper diagnosis. While we research your case and gather expert witness statements, you won’t pay any fees until we’ve won your case for you; this way, you can focus on what’s important now – feeling better or caring for your loved ones – instead of the added stress of a lengthy legal process and fees.
In addition, our lawyers work with doctors, nurses, and other medical experts to review medical records for indicators of negligent errors in diagnosing a patient with a severe coronary condition.
No attorney in Oklahoma has won more medical cases at trial than Steve Clark.
We compassionately fight for your best interests and won’t take the easy way out. Call us today to talk to our team about your situation.
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