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Are Emergency Rooms Failing to Diagnose Heart Attacks?

Posted on December 21, 2015 by Kelly Wolford
busy emergency room

The failure to diagnose a patient with a condition is a common cause of a medical malpractice claims in New York and across the United States. One of the most serious instances of misdiagnosis arises when a heart attack is not diagnosed properly. A heart attack misdiagnosis can lead to imminent patient harm, including death.

When a misdiagnosed heart attack occurs, and the patient suffers injury as a direct result, filing a medical malpractice claim for damages may be an appropriate course of action. You have the right to file a civil action whether you are the victim, or whether you are a surviving family member of a deceased victim.

The Rates of Misdiagnoses in the U.S

The rates of medical misdiagnoses in the United States are surprisingly high. A 2013 study published in BMJ Open and reported on by CBS News found that the most common medical malpractice claims were instances of misdiagnosis, which were involved in approximately 26 to 63 percent of total malpractice claims filed.

Also, the most commonly listed complication of misdiagnosis was death, which resulted in 15 to 48 percent of cases.

The most commonly misdiagnosed adverse events for adults that were cited in the study were cancer and heart attacks.

According to MyHeartSisters.org, women are much more likely than men to be misdiagnosed when suffering from a heart attack. They may be sent home with a misdiagnosis of menopause, indigestion or anxiety instead. According to the group’s website, women under age 55 are seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed than are their male counterparts.

Why Are Heart Attacks Commonly Misdiagnosed?

Individuals, and particularly women, who suffer from a heart attack face a greater risk of death when their symptoms are misdiagnosed. According to a March 2014 article published in Business Insider, part of the reason that misdiagnosis rates in women who suffer from heart attacks may be much higher than the rates of misdiagnosis in men who suffer from heart attacks may be due to women’s anxiety levels.

Patients who suffer from anxiety and visit emergency rooms with non-cardiac related chest pain tend to be women. As a result, emergency personnel may be more likely to dismiss the symptoms of a woman who actually is suffering from a heart attack and may instead misdiagnose the heart attack as anxiety.

This dismissal can be deadly. While early treatment for a heart attack can save the victim’s life, delayed treatment can have the opposite effect. As reported on by the Business Insider article cited above, men are more likely than women to receive faster access to electrocardiograms (ECGs) to check heart rhythm.

For example, the average man involved in the study, which was conducted by researchers at McGill University, received an ECG within 15 to 28 minutes from the time he arrived at the emergency room.

In contrast, the average woman did not receive an ECG until after having waited in the emergency room for between 21 and 36 minutes.

Who Is Responsible for Patient Harm When a Heart Attack Goes Undiagnosed?

Failing to diagnose a patient who is suffering from a heart attack accurately can be deadly for that patient. When a misdiagnosis is given, those parties who may be held liable for the error includes the hospital, attending physician and/or any other medical professionals who failed to exercise the duty of care required.

Examples of preventable errors that may warrant a malpractice suit and can lead to a heart attack misdiagnosis include:

  • Failure to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack
  • Failure to order an ECG for a patient who is exhibiting symptoms of a heart attack
  • Failure to order lab tests or follow up on lab tests
  • Misinterpretation of a test result such as an ECG, carotid, blood, MRI or other important tests.
  • Failure to respond to a patient in a timely manner.

If any of the above were the cause of your harm or your loved one’s harm, you have the right to speak with an attorney about filing a medical malpractice claim.

How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?

All claims for medical malpractice in Albany and other areas of New York State must be filed within two and half years. If you do not file your claim within this time frame, then you could be barred from recovering compensation at all.

If your medical malpractice claim is successful, you may be able to recover compensation for:

  • Your medical bills and future medical bills
  • Your physical pain
  • Your emotional anguish
  • Your lost wages and future lost wages
  • Any other economic or non-economic expenses incurred.

If you have lost a loved one due to a heart attack that would not have occurred but for a misdiagnosis, you too have the right to file a claim for compensation.

Your wrongful death claim may yield damages for:

  • Medical bills
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of household services
  • Your own pain and suffering
  • Loss of companionship, guidance and consortium
  • Loss of the deceased’s wages and future earning and benefits.

Contact an Albany Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

A heart attack should never be misdiagnosed. When it is, the results can be catastrophic for the affected patient and his or her family members. When your emotional and physical harm would not have been suffered but for a heart attack misdiagnosis caused by the negligence of a medical professional, you have the right to file a medical malpractice claim to recover all damages that you have suffered.

The experienced Albany medical malpractice attorneys at Powers & Santola, LLP, want to discuss your claim with you today. Because time is of the essence, we encourage you to contact us by using our online form. You can request a free case review today. You can also call our offices at your earliest convenience.

Hiring a medical malpractice attorney to represent you may be the first step you take towards a brighter future.