Medical malpractice includes misdiagnosing heart attacks

For people of both sexes, heart attacks remain the most frequent cause of death. When physicians fail to recognize signs of a myocardial infarction in their patients, the risks climb even higher.

Florida residents should be aware that not all heart attacks share the same symptoms of crushing chest pains. Women especially tend to feel pain in the back, arm and jaw, and some may just feel especially fatigued when a heart attack occurs. Any of these symptoms can indicate a need for emergency medical treatment.

Once at the Emergency Room, the treating physician should immediately order an EKG and some blood tests that can rule out injuries to the heart muscle. Sometimes patients with results that fall within normal limits will still be at risk of a fatal or near-fatal cardiac event within the next 24 hours and require in-patient monitoring. Factors that can exacerbate the risk include:

  • Pre-existing hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of heart attacks
  • Prior heart attack history
  • LDL cholesterol higher than 100

When physicians fail to properly diagnose and monitor those at risk of myocardial infarctions, they have departed from the acceptable standards of care. Patients can suffer irreversible heart damage and even die, opening doctors up to the possibility of medical malpractice lawsuits for failing to diagnose the condition.

Treatment for heart attacks includes administering medicine like tissue plasminogen activator to dissolve blood clots in blocked coronary arteries. This should be given within the four hour window prior to the onset of irreversible damage in the form of necrotic tissue and gangrene. Patients should also be admitted to the cardiac unit with constant monitoring of their EKGs to detect any arrhythmias before they cause the fatal condition known as ventricular fibrillation.

If a patient lapses into v-fib, doctors and nurses should be prepared to shock their hearts electrically to prevent imminent death.

Misdiagnoses of heart attacks that don’t end in patient deaths can still be quite devastating and lead to a lifetime of heart problems and invasive medical treatments like coronary artery bypass grafts and angioplasties.

If you or a loved one were misdiagnosed, you may wish to pursue a malpractice claim.

Source: American Medical Experts, “Misdiagnosis of a Heart Attack” accessed Mar. 24, 2015