Know the Signs of Heart Attacks – They May be Missed in the Emergency Room

February 7, 2022

Heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) strike without mercy against men and women of all ethnic and racial backgrounds. Every 40 seconds, someone experiences a heart attack in the United States; that’s 805,000 heart attacks a year. Of these, 605,000 are suffered by people who’ve never had a heart attack before.

Heart attacks are often life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. But getting to an emergency room on time isn’t always enough. Heart attack symptoms vary by person and sex, increasing the chances of a misdiagnosis.

If a heart attack isn’t diagnosed correctly and treated appropriately, you might have a case for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Learn the signs of a heart attack so you can recognize them in yourself and others to prevent a missed diagnosis in the emergency room.

Is Failure to Diagnose a Heart Attack Common?

A significant cause of heart attack misdiagnosis is atypical symptoms that cause many doctors to consider other health issues. Over 71.2% of misdiagnosed cases in emergency departments occur due to the improper diagnosis and judgment of the clinical provider. Patients sent home from the ER before getting proper treatment for a heart attack have a higher mortality rate.

Early recognition and treatment of heart attack symptoms are critical to preventing permanent damage. According to the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, you have roughly 90 minutes between the onset of symptoms and restoring blood flow to the heart before critical heart tissue is damaged or dies.

Recognizing Heart Attack Symptoms

The most common sign of a heart attack is feeling discomfort in the chest, but not all heart attacks are preceded by chest pain. Symptoms can vary from a mild ache to a severe stabbing pain or even a squeezing sensation.

Another frequent sign is pain in the left arm. This pain, caused by lowered blood oxygen levels, can also present in the neck, shoulders, back, jaw, or both arms.

Shortness of breath, clamminess, dizziness, nausea, lethargy (sleepy and incoherent), and fatigue are other possible symptoms.

Women are more likely to experience atypical symptoms like stomach pain or back pain, a burning sensation like acid reflux, or flu-like signs.

Many heart attack symptoms can also be signs of other medical conditions. For example, panic attacks, acute anxiety, and heartburn can cause difficulty breathing, chest pains, an accelerated heart rate, and tremors. This is why it is so important for doctors to correctly diagnose heart attacks.

Heart Attack Diagnosis and Treatment

48% of Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease, putting them at increased risk of a heart attack. However, almost 80% of heart attacks go undiagnosed because patients and doctors fail to recognize minor symptoms.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Tests are often a diagnostic tool to help providers identify heart attacks. However, for many women, these tests produce normal results. Most diagnostic tools focus on symptoms commonly present in men due to the misinformation that heart attacks are more prevalent in men.

Many doctors also misdiagnose or fail to diagnose a heart attack due to anchoring bias. Anchoring bias occurs when a physician focuses on symptoms that support their initial diagnosis (such as panic attack or heartburn) rather than acknowledging the real issue.

Contact our law firm if you experienced anchoring bias from your primary care physician or an emergency room doctor, and it resulted in a worsening of your health. Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a heart attack, stroke, or other serious health condition may give you grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Consequences of a Missed Diagnosis

Failure to properly diagnose and treat a heart attack can have deadly consequences. Depending on the severity of the heart attack, the condition can result in short or long-term disabilities, or even death when left untreated. Over 100,000 Americans experience permanent disability or death due to medical malpractice by improper diagnosis each year.

Having a heart attack also puts you at future risk of repeated attacks. It also makes you more susceptible to kidney problems, stroke, high blood pressure, and peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Claim?

If you or a loved one received a heart attack misdiagnosis during a visit to a Louisiana emergency room, you might be eligible to file a medical malpractice suit.

If a misdiagnosed heart attack leads to bodily harm, you’re entitled to compensation. Let the Baton Rouge medical malpractice attorneys at Dudley DeBosier fight for justice on your behalf while you focus on your recovery.