When the Emergency Room Fails to Diagnose a Heart Attack
When an individual is rushed to the hospital emergency room it is up to the hospital to properly diagnose and treat the patient. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many individuals die or experience temporary or permanent injury as a result of not being properly diagnosed. Injuries resulting from missed diagnosis or non-diagnosis are usually completely avoidable. This is particularly so with heart attack patients.
Heart Attack Causes
A heart attack, or yocardial infarction, occurs when the normal oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart is blocked. Causes of the blood flow interruption include, but are not limited to:
- Coronary artery blockage – artery is blocked and too narrow for blood flow
- Build-up of fat; cholesterol blockage (atherosclerosis)
- History of coronary heart disease
- Spasm, or tightening, of a coronary artery – can happen to arteries not blocked by atherosclerosis
- Spasms may be caused by prescribed and/or illegal drugs (e.g., cocaine)
- Stress or shock
Heart Attack Symptoms
There are numerous heart attack symptoms. These may include the following:
- Pain, discomfort and/or tightening in the chest area
- Discomfort or tightening in other upper body areas – arms, shoulders, neck, face, jaw, back
- Shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting
- Nausea, vomiting, urge to vomit
- Persistent pain, cramps, sweating
When an individual experiences one or more of the symptoms noted above, a visit to the emergency room can – and often should - be life saving.
Emergency Room Diagnosis
It is the duty and responsibility of the hospital emergency room to properly diagnose and treat all patients, including those presenting heart attack symptoms. These commonly include, but are not limited to the following:
- Immediate screening – patient should be asked about the onset and description of symptoms
- Immediate monitoring - blood pressure, pulse, heart rate, temperature, other
- Electrocardiogram, or ECG - heart monitor screening – patient should be immediately monitored. ECG electrodes attached to specific areas will normally detect electrical impulses
- Medical history – medications, prior heart disease or heart attack history, other pertinent information
- Blood tests – certain enzymes will indicate heart attack
- Chest X-ray – allows physician to scan heart size, presence of lung fluid, heart size abnormality
- Angiogram – liquid dye catheterization to reveal blockages
- CT and MRI – important to indicate extent of damage and current condition
- Other tests – diagnostic and preventative tests as appropriate
Non-Diagnosed and Misdiagnosed Heart Attacks in Females in the Emergency Room
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States (22.4%). Despite this fact, many women who present with heart attack symptoms are frequently released from the emergency room without being properly diagnosed or treated.
One reason why heart attacks are frequently not diagnosed in women is because women often do not experience chest pain and pressure as men commonly do - despite the fact that they often present with most or all of the heart attack symptoms noted above. Emergency rooms commonly release women based on the lack of chest pain. In many instances, diagnostic tests are simply not conducted.
Medical Malpractice Resulting from Missed Heart Attack Diagnosis
When a hospital emergency room fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses a heart attack, resulting in injury or death, the victim or the legal heirs may pursue economic and noneconomic monetary compensation. Depending on the specific circumstances, compensation may include the following:
- Medical expenses – past, present and future, including rehabilitation
- Loss of income – past, present and future
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages – in cases involving egregious conduct
- Other expenses – ask your attorney/li>
Michels & Lew – California’s Premier Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Firm
Michels & Lew has a stellar record of accomplishment obtaining compensation for injured victims and the families of deceased victims. Our team is comprised of highly experienced legal and medical professionals. The Law Offices of Michels & Lew can be contacted at 800-639-1400.