Failure to Diagnose a Heart Attack

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for one in every four deaths, and affecting significantly more males than females.

Heart disease describes several conditions, largely related to the buildup of harmful plaque in the walls of the arteries that feed the heart with blood. When plaque builds up, the arteries narrow and blood cannot flow freely, creating the risk for heart attack, stroke, angina, arrhythmias and heart failure.

Heart Attack Signs and Symptoms

Most of us think of heart attack as sudden, jolting chest pain. The truth is that most heart attacks begin slowly, with discomfort mild enough to be ignored or attributed to a lesser issue such as heartburn. About thirty percent of heart attacks cause no chest pain, which can lead to a failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis.

Heart attack symptoms cover a wide range, including:

  • Discomfort ranging from pain or squeezing to burning or pressure in the chest, abdomen, neck, back, arm, wrist or jaw. May begin in the center of the chest, radiating out.
  • “Panic attack”: Disproportionate anxiety, sense of approaching doom
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Excessive sweating, loss of balance, nausea, vomiting or light-headedness
  • Pain not increased or diminished by movement, position, or deep breathing
  • Blackouts, fainting or breathing difficulties in diabetics

Additionally, men and women experience heart attack symptoms differently. Women tend to be more nauseous, with pain felt higher in the abdomen or chest.  Unexplained fatigue following physical activity may also be present, rather than the typical chest pain we associate with heart attack.

Failure to Diagnose a Heart Attack

A thorough medical assessment begins with physical examination and medical history, especially focused on family risk factors for heart disease. When a heart attack occurs suddenly, the chaos of the emergency room setting can lead to unintentional misdiagnosis. Today’s modern standards of care demand that physicians investigate symptoms using the full spectrum of advanced diagnostics to evaluate chest pain and related complaints. Following these standards can prevent unnecessary procedures as well as failure to diagnose a heart attack, which could lead to death.

If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered injury or death due to failure to diagnose a heart attack, please contact a qualified attorney today.