Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. It can strike anyone, young or old, man or woman, any race or ethnicity. More than 650,000 people die of heart disease in the United States each year. That represents about 27 percent of all deaths in this country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Heart attacks, also known as myocardial infarctions, are scary and difficult to deal with afterwards. Nothing can prepare you for how a heart attack will change your life. Whether it happens to you or someone you love, your life will forever be changed because of a heart attack.
Hospitals, Emergency Room and Urgent Care doctors are all trained to recognize and treat heart attacks. Unfortunately, some doctors fail to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack. People are discharged from the emergency room with symptoms of heart attack and told they are fine. They are told they have indigestion, GERD, muscle strain, or some other minor illness. According to some estimates, as many as 2-4% of people having a heart attack who go to the emergency room are discharged without the correct diagnosis and treatment. This failure can cause the patient not to be treated and sent home prematurely causing a worse injury or death. If the hospital or ER doctor fails to diagnose and treat a heart attack, it can constitute medical malpractice.
There are all sorts of reasons as to why a heart attack is misdiagnosed or not timely diagnosed.
The proper tests are not ordered, or nurses and doctors are overworked and rushing too fast to take a thorough medical history and perform a thorough exam. Sometimes there is an error in reading the test results.
Other times, although the heart attack may have been sudden, the doctor may have mishandled treatment prior to the heart attack. This could include not addressing significant heart attack risk factors that should have been treated to prevent the heart attack, prescribing the wrong types or amounts of medications, or missing heart abnormalities that could have been treated to prevent the heart attack. Either way, the result is the same: a missed heart attack diagnosis leading to death or permanent heart injury.
What Should I Do If a Hospital or ER Misdiagnosed a Heart Attack?
The first thing you need to know is that Pennsylvania and New Jersey have a limited time in which to file a lawsuit—just two years from the date of the malpractice—which means, you want a qualified medical malpractice lawyer investigating sooner than later. This limited time frame is called the “statute of limitations. So do not delay in contacting a medical malpractice attorney.
As such, it is important for you to be able to explain how the heart attack has changed your life. Important things to think about that will help in the analysis of your claim include:
1) Are there activities that you can no longer do since the heart attack?
2) Are you still able to work after the heart attack or did you have to take a leave of absence, quit, retire, or find a new line of work altogether?
3) Has your doctor informed you that your heart or other organs suffered permanent or serious damage as a result of the delay in treating your heart attack?
4) Did you have to have surgeries or ongoing treatment to continue to repair or monitor the damage from the heart attack?
5) Did your loved one die from the misdiagnosed heart attack?
Other issues to consider In evaluating a potential medical malpractice heart attack case is the patient’s medical history prior to the heart attack. Understanding what underlying medical conditions you had prior to the heart attack and which conditions were relayed to the doctor or emergency room provider either by you or through your medical records will help determine what tests and procedures the doctor should have performed and what background information and questions the doctor should have asked you when you were admitted to the hospital.
EKGs, Cardiac Catheterizations, and angiograms are all tools that can help present the full picture to doctors and give them the insight to better treat heart attacks. Knowing whether you or your loved one had a history of heart attacks, heart murmurs, irregular heartbeats, or heart flutters can also assist in diagnosing and treating a suspected heart attack.
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer will review you or your loved one’s medical records, talk to you about what happened at the hospital, and then if he or she believes that negligence occurred will begin consulting with experts in the same specialty as the doctor that misdiagnosed the heart attack to confirm whether the doctor deviated from the standard of a care in treating and diagnosing the heart attack.
If you believe that your or your loved ones heart attack was misdiagnosed, The Thistle Law Firm is experienced in these claims and can help you understand your legal options and answer your questions at 215-568-6800.