Early detection of a heart attack or heart disease may save a person’s life. When medical malpractice occurs, there is often a negligent delay in diagnosis or treatment. If a doctor fails to properly diagnose a heart attack, the consequences can be tragic, especially since a timely diagnosis may minimize damage to the heart.
If a patient reports to the doctor with chest pain, nausea, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, arm pain, blurred vision or irregular heart beat, the doctor may commit medical malpractice if he or she negligently fails to consider the patient’s risk factors, fails to order or perform the appropriate diagnostic testing, or fails to thoroughly investigate the areas and degree of physical pain the patient is having.
If a diagnosis of heart attack is made, certain drugs may need to be given and procedures started without delay to minimize heart damage. Failure to do so may constitute malpractice and may lead to loss of life or permanent heart damage.
There are several important tests that a doctor may order or perform to reach a correct and hopefully early diagnosis of heart attack or heart disease. These include:
- EKG (electrocardiogram) – Measures the electrical output of the heart and can show the presence of an abnormal heartbeat.
- Blood test – Measures levels of cholesterol and c-reactive protein which bears a relation to risk factors such as higher levels of arterial inflammation and calcification or narrowing of the coronary arteries. Furthermore, during a heart attack, there may be an elevation of certain enzymes (cardiac troponin, CKMB/ creatine phosphokinase) that can be measured by a blood test as the heart muscle becomes damaged.
- Cardiac catheterization/angiogram – An imaging study with the release of a special dye performed by using a tiny catheter that is guided up through the inside of a blood vessel in the groin into the coronary arteries in order to detect a blockage or clot.
- Echocardiogram – An ultrasound of the heart that can show the capacity and/or efficiency of the heart walls and heart valves as they function.
- CT scan – A high-speed scan that is performed by radiology that can detect levels of increased calcification or narrowing in the coronary arteries.
- Thallium stress test – A special dye is used to enhance photographic images of the heart during exercise on a treadmill or at rest.
Common Heart Attack Misdiagnoses
We have seen cases in which doctors misdiagnosed a heart attack as:
- Heartburn/acid reflux
- Panic attack (mental anxiety)
- Pneumonia or bronchitis
- Gastrointestinal pain (especially in women)
- Stable angina
Women in particular are highly likely to be misdiagnosed because some of their symptoms are different from men and because of the misconception that heart attacks are rare in women. Heart attacks often go undiagnosed in younger patients, too, even when the telltale symptoms are there.
Malpractice may occur if the doctor fails to provide emergency treatment for a heart attack. Emergency treatment may include, but is not limited to, administering oxygen, drugs to break up blood clots (such as tPA), drugs to stop new blood clots from forming (anticoagulants), drugs to reduce the workload on the heart (beta blockers), and pain medication.
If it is unclear whether a patient is experiencing a heart attack, drugs to prevent blood clots may be started to lower the risk of a heart attack. If the diagnosis of heart attack has been made, early use of medications that dissolve blood clots, or emergency angioplasty or coronary artery bypass surgery, may prevent loss of life or lessen the degree of permanent heart damage.
Long Island Heart Attack Malpractice Lawyers
If you believe that the doctors failed to diagnose your heart attack or save your family member, it costs you nothing to have your case reviewed by our medical experts. There are no attorney fees unless we recover compensation.
Contact the Long Island medical malpractice lawyers at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP now for a free case evaluation. If you are unable to come to us, we can come to you.
For a free legal consultation with a lawyer serving Long Island, call 516-358-6900