Cardiologists are doctors who have specialized training and skill in finding, treating and preventing diseases of the heart and blood vessels. Because they treat such a vital part of a healthy functioning body if they do commit negligence or malpractice while treating you or a loved one it can mean dire consequences for your entire family.
What Are The Most Common Malpractice Claims Against Cardiologists?
A common claim you may have against a cardiologist is not identifying that you are at risk for a future heart attack and giving you the proper treatment to avoid that heart attack.
Factors that put you at a risk for a heart attack are age (men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55), a history of tobacco use (e.g. smoking history), high blood pressure which can damage the arteries that feed your heart, high levels of “bad” cholesterol (known as low-density lipoprotein or LPL) which can narrow the arteries leading to your heart, obesity, being diabetic, having a family history of a heart attack, or having an autoimmune condition (when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake).
What Kind Of Risk Factors Could Lead To Heart Conditions?
If you or a family member have multiple risk factors and symptoms such as ongoing chest pain, shortness of breath, or an abnormal EKG (and not comparing your EKG results to past EKG results if they are available), you could be a ticking time bomb for a heart attack down the road.
Such symptoms and risk factors could require you to be admitted to a hospital for further cardiac workup rather than, for example, follow up in a month’s time to see how your symptoms are persisting.
There could be scenarios where you are suffering from an active heart attack which your cardiologist misses. These symptoms include pressure, pain, or tightness in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back, nausea, indigestion, heartburn, shortness of breath, cold sweat, fatigue, and lightheadedness. Your medical history and risk factors for suffering a heart attack should also be taken into account when you are suffering these symptoms.
Negligence in these scenarios could involve not doing further testing to rule out a heart attack or not sending you to a hospital for immediate emergency treatment. However, as we have stated in another blog when treating for symptoms of an active heart attack you are more likely being
treated by a critical care physician in the emergency room. However, there could be fault on the part of your cardiologist or his practice if you or a loved one called the cardiologist’s practice when experiencing these symptoms, and were advised no emergent treatment was necessary.
Cardiologists can also manage medication to treat issues with your heart, blood pressure, and blood vessels, and could be negligent for mismanagement of this medication. A common condition that a cardiologist manages is atrial fibrillation – an irregular, rapid heart rate that can
increase a person’s risk of a stroke 5 times. Atrial fibrillation can cause a stroke because this rapid, chaotic beating of the heart may cause blood to pool in your heart and result in a clot forming. This blood clot can break off (this is called an embolus) and travel to, and block off, an artery leading to your brain. This will block off the blood flow to your brain – which allows oxygen and nutrients to reach it – and will result in a stroke as brain cells die off.
A cardiologist managing a patient’s atrial fibrillation must be familiar with the scoring systems used to determine whether you are at high risk for a stroke. These include the CHADS2 scoring system (Congestive heart failure, Hypertension, Age 75 +, Diabetes, prior Stroke) which is a standard test used when evaluating stroke risk in afib patients. One point is given for every category except for prior stroke which is given a score of 2. Besides the CHADS2 score, there is an updated scoring system called the CHA₂DS₂-VASc Score (Congestive Heart Failure, Hypertension, Age 65 – 74, Age 75 +, diabetes, prior stroke, vascular disease, and sex) which takes into account more risk factors in determining your stroke risk.
Depending on your score you may be required to be on blood thinners to prevent the formation of blood clots that can result from atrial fibrillation. Likewise, if you are on blood thinners for any reason a cardiologist must be aware of factors that would make you at risk for internal bleeding while on them.
The Thistle Law Firm is experienced at handling malpractice claims against cardiologists. If you or a loved one was harmed as a result of poor care from a cardiologist and you believe there was negligence involved, the attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call and answer your questions at 215-525-6824.