Undiagnosed Heart Attacks

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.  Nearly half a million Americans will die of a heart attack each year and thousands more will suffer a heart attack that is not fatal. There have been numerous medical advancements over the last few decades that have helped more people survive heart attacks, yet even today, heart attacks often go undiagnosed.  It is estimated that one in 50 heart attack victims are sent home by emergency room doctors, according to researchers from New England Medical Center in Boston.  Other studies have shown that this rate could be even higher.

There have been many instances of patients arriving at hospitals with severe chest pains, only to be told that there was no immediate danger and the pain was most likely caused by a less serious condition.  In 2006, a story was published in USA Today about a man who was taken by ambulance from his home, because he was experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath.  The paramedics used an electrocardiogram machine to examine his heart’s electrical function, which showed that he was possibly having a heart attack.  Once the man arrived at the hospital, the ER doctor ran some tests and told the patient it was just anxiety.  The man was sent home and died within 24 hours.  An autopsy later revealed that the man's death was caused by severe occlusive coronary atherosclerosis or severely blocked arteries in the heart.

An undiagnosed heart attack results in the highest malpractice settlements, as compared to other medical conditions.  The majority of these cases involve errors in diagnosis.  Doctors believe that despite the medical advancements over the years, the number of people who die of missed heart attacks is high.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack
The average age for a first heart attack in men is 66-years-old.  Women are also prone to heart disease.  It is important to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack to increase your chances of survival.  Also, by understanding the symptoms, you can help avoid misdiagnosis.  The American Heart Association lists the following warning signs of a heart attack:

• Chest discomfort - uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.  

• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body - pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.   

• Shortness of breath

• Breaking out in a cold sweat

• Nausea

• Lightheadedness  

If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.  When someone is having a heart attack, every minute counts.

Legal Action for a Misdiagnosed Heart Attack
Physicians and hospitals can be held responsible for a misdiagnosed heart attack.  If you have lost a loved one because a heart attack went undiagnosed, you may be entitled to compensation.  Contact Tavss Fletcher, North Carolina and Virginia medical malpractice attorneys, at (757) 625-1214 for legal advice regarding your case.