Failure to Diagnose a Heart Attack Can be Deadly

Whitney Taylor | November 6th, 2015

heart rate monitorEvery 43 seconds someone in the U.S. experiences a heart attack, according to the American Heart Association. Also known as myocardial infarctions, these events require prompt and proper medical treatment.

While most heart attacks are correctly diagnosed and treated in emergency rooms across the country every day, there are times when the telltale signs of a heart attack may be missed. In those cases, a single oversight or mistake can turn deadly for the patient.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs when the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen-rich blood due to a blocked coronary artery. Known as ischemia, this can lead to damage or death of a portion of the heart if the problem is not identified and addressed very quickly. Lack of treatment can also lead to disability or death for the patient.

There are many factors that can increase heart attack risk, including a family history of heart disease, age, smoking, weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle. In addition, pre-existing medical conditions, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes can increase the risk of a heart attack. These risk factors should be taken into account any time a heart attack is suspected to aid in a fast diagnosis and prompt medical treatment.

Common symptoms of a heart attack

Symptoms that are commonly associated with a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort, known as angina
  • Pain in other areas, such as the left arm and shoulder or back
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing even when resting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Rapid heart rate

These symptoms require immediate medical attention and should not be ignored. Most physicians are very familiar with these heart attack signs and will provide the proper emergency treatment to prevent further damage and improve the patient’s prognosis.

Uncommon symptoms of a heart attack

Some heart attacks may present with less common symptoms, particularly in women. These symptoms might include:

  • Pain around the neck and jaw
  • Symptoms resembling indigestion
  • Feelings of anxiety or dread
  • Extreme fatigue and weakness

Treating a heart attack

Fast treatment of a heart attack can make the difference between life and death. In most cases, treatment will precede a systematic diagnosis if a heart attack is suspected, because every minute treatment is delayed can mean more damage to the heart. Treatment often includes medications to dissolve clots or percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to open up the blocked artery without surgery. In some cases, coronary artery bypass grafting may be required to surgically repair a blocked artery and restore healthy blood flow.

Medical misdiagnosis may warrant litigation

Despite advancements in heart attack diagnosis and treatment, misdiagnosis and treatment errors can still occur. Heart attacks are often mistaken for indigestion, heartburn or an anxiety attack. Women are more likely to suffer from a heart attack misdiagnosis or improper treatment, with 42 percent of women dying from heart attacks within one year of their diagnosis, versus 24 percent of men (statistics taken from the Huffington Post).

If you or a loved one suffered injury due to a medical misdiagnosis, legal help is available. Contact The Sanders Firm for a free case evaluation with NY medical malpractice attorneys who leverage decades of experience. We are ready to listen to your concerns at 1.800.FAIR.PLAY.