What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack (also called an acute myocardial infarction or MI) occurs when a blockage in the heart’s arteries reduces or completely cut off the blood supply to a portion of the heart, resulting in heart muscle damage. Doctors and emergency room staff should always be alert to the possibility that heart attack could be the cause of a patient’s visit to the emergency room. Although a common medical emergency, it is often overlooked or misdiagnosed. When a heart attack is quickly detected and treated, most patients can recover and go on to live a normal life. However, left untreated, it can easily lead to permanent disability or death. Due to medical malpractice in the emergency room, some heart attack patients are sent home undiagnosed, untreated, and at very high risk of losing their lives.
What is Heart Attack Misdiagnosis?
In many cases doctors and emergency room staff should be able to anticipate an imminent heart attack by taking a thorough patient history which emphasizes listening with an open mind instead of hastily attributing the patient’s presentation to a cause that is not life threatening, conducting a thorough and complete physical exam, and ordering proper testing, including electrocardiogram testing (ECG or EKG) and blood tests for certain enzymes. Even when a heart attack cannot be anticipated and prevented, prompt diagnosis and treatment can save a patient’s life from a heart attack misdiagnosis and/or prevent permanent injury.
Symptoms (Myocardial Infarction)
The symptoms should never be taken lightly or dismissed to prevent misdiagnosis of heart attacks. Although some heart attacks present with sudden, intense symptoms, in many cases only mild, gradual discomfort is experienced. It is possible it may occur without any symptoms, some common symptoms include one or more of the following:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Pain or discomfort in any other area of the upper body, including the shoulder, arm, back, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Heightened anxiety or feeling of impending doom
Misdiagnosed Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)
Doctors and emergency room staff are responsible to be careful not to misdiagnosis heart attack symptoms for symptoms of other less dangerous medical problems, such as:
- Acid reflux
- Anxiety attack
- Musculoskeletal pain
How Does a Misdiagnosis Happen?
Similarity of symptoms is not the only factor leading to heart attack misdiagnosis. The victims are often overlooked simply because they don’t fit the profile that health care professionals expect. For this reason, younger people and in women often experience heart attack misdiagnosis. Women are at a higher risk for heart attack than was once believed. Common factors leading to a misdiagnosis include:
- Failure to take a proper and thorough medical history
- Failure to perform a thorough physical examination
- Failure to consider heart attack in patients that seem healthy
- Failure to consider heart attack in younger patients
- Failure to consider heart attacks in women
- Failure to order necessary tests in a timely and emergent manner
- Delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis, or failure to diagnose heart attack
- Failure to consult cardiac specialists in a timely manner
- Improper reading of EKG results
- Overreliance on EKG results
- Laboratory error
What Kinds of Damages Result Due to a Heart Attack Misdiagnosis?
If a heart attack victim does not receive proper treatment, their body could suffer permanent damage to the point of death. If the patient does survive, it’s entirely possible they might suffer from a permanent disability or even lifelong pain due to the misdiagnosis.
Additional consequences include:
- Permanent brain damage
- Scarring of the heart
- Muscle damage
Victims who have survived a heart attack may find their heart has weakened. It’s possible it’s no longer able to pump blood as efficiently. This makes it difficult for individuals to engage in strenuous activity as they might have prior to the heart attack.
What To Do After a Heart Attack Misdiagnosis
Injury from heart attack (myocardial infarction) can cause sudden physical, emotional, and financial hardships for patients and their families. During this time, it is difficult to think about seeking legal help, but there are time limits for taking legal action. In addition, in many cases you will need the compensation that you deserve as soon as possible.
If you or a loved one has experienced serious injury or death which you believe may have been due to the failure to prevent heart attack, or the failure to timely diagnose or treat heart attack, 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
Contact Us About a Misdiagnosis Case
Collectively, New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers Michael L. Weiss, Esq. and Robert E. Paarz, Esq. have presented many medical malpractice cases relating to heart attack damage to juries and have helped many families achieve substantial financial recoveries. They are committed to using their knowledge and experience to help any individual or family who has suffered a severe, permanent injury or death due to medical malpractice to obtain fair compensation.
For more information on Heart Attack Diagnosis please visit our Heart Attack Frequently Asked Questions page.
If you believe you or a loved one may have experienced such an injury, please contact Weiss & Paarz, P.C., today.