Failure to Diagnose Heart Attacks

Heart attacks are a very common reason for patients to visit emergency rooms. Although it is a serious and potentially fatal event, when diagnosed and treated quickly, most heart attack victims can recover and go on to live a normal life. When left untreated, another more serious heart attack can follow within a few hours or a few days and the victim may die. Failure to diagnose heart attack is medical malpractice.

How Heart Attack is Misdiagnosed

Heart attack may go overlooked or may be misdiagnosed as another problem. When the patient is female, young, or seems to be in good physical shape and overall good health, doctors often fail to test for heart attack even when the symptoms are present because they do not think of it as a possible cause. Common ways that failure to diagnose heart attack can occur include:

  • Failure to recognize symptoms of heart attack, especially “atypical” symptoms
  • Failure consider the possibility of heart attack in patients who are not considered at risk for cardiovascular problems
  • Failure to review and consider the patient’s medical history, including medications and other factors that increase the risk of heart attack
  • Failure to consider risk factors such as recent smoking cessation, recent drug or alcohol detoxification, or current detox or cessation process causing withdrawals
  • Failure to administer the proper tests
  • Overreliance on EKG results
  • Misreading test results
  • Mistaking symptoms for the symptoms of other health conditions

Heart attack is often misdiagnosed as another health condition such as:

  • Acid reflux
  • Angina
  • Heartburn
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Gallstones
  • Anxiety or panic attack

Misdiagnosis of Heart Attack in Women

In the past, failure to diagnose heart attack in women was very common because it was believed that women were not at risk, and their symptoms are often different to the symptoms in men. Although some people still hold that misconception, the medical community has been well aware of the risk of heart attack in women for years. It is common knowledge among doctors, other health care professionals, and even the general public.

No Excuse for Failure to Diagnose Heart Attack

Doctors and other health care professionals may try to convince you that failure to diagnose heart attack is excusable when the victim is female, young in good physical shape, or generally seems healthy. Do not believe this excuse.

There are many reasons that heart attacks can occur outside of the general risk factors for heart disease such as obesity, advanced age, and high cholesterol. This may come as a surprise to heart attack victims and their loved ones, but doctors and other health care providers know that they should always consider and check for heart attack when a patient complains of the symptoms, even if the patient does not suspect they may be having a heart attack.

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