Can a Doctor Misdiagnose a Heart Attack?

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You might suffer a mild to severe heart attack that your doctor misdiagnoses. Doctors are subject to human error, and medical diagnosis is not an exact science. It is possible for virtually any medical doctor to misdiagnose a heart attack.

A heart attack might seem like an obvious affliction, but that is not always the case. Heart attacks could be very severe and cause death, or they might be relatively small but still endanger your life.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports about 800,000 thousand people suffer heart attacks every year in the United States.

The CDC says about three-fourths of heart attacks will happen to people who never suffered a heart attack before. The other 200,000 cases are people who suffered a prior heart attack.

How a Misdiagnosis Might Qualify as Medical Malpractice

Just because a doctor might have misdiagnosed your heart attack does not mean that medical malpractice occurred. Many heart attack symptoms are similar to those of other afflictions.

With so many people suffering heart attacks each year, medical doctors will misdiagnose some of them. A misdiagnosis might lead to a doctor concluding that you suffered a panic attack or experienced heartburn instead of a heart attack.

If the misdiagnosis does not make your condition worse, there is no additional harm. Therefore, no medical malpractice occurred. A second opinion might determine that you suffered a heart attack and might enable you to prevent another one.

Accepted Standard of Care Affects Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical malpractice requires a medical professional to violate the accepted standard of care. Standard of care is a very important aspect of any kind of medical treatment.

Your doctor might violate the accepted standard of care and commit medical malpractice by:

  • Failing to identify heart attack symptoms
  • Not ordering medical tests, such as a coronary angiography
  • Misreading laboratory testing results
  • Ignoring laboratory tests and not following up on them

When a doctor makes an honest effort to meet or exceed the accepted standard of care, even a misdiagnosis does not rise to the level of medical malpractice. Even if you suffer a heart attack after obtaining medical care, that does not mean your doctor committed medical malpractice.

When the doctor does not meet the accepted standard of care, a medical malpractice claim might become viable. Suffering a medical episode does not automatically prove malpractice occurred, but it is possible to gather evidence that does.

How to Prove Medical Malpractice in Court

You might have a heart attack or suffer another medical condition after seeking treatment from your doctor or another medical professional. You would need to show how medical malpractice caused or significantly contributed to the medical conditions to prevail on your medical malpractice claim. A misdiagnosis would not do that.

You need to show how your doctor or another medical professional provided you with substandard care that is not medically acceptable. Perhaps your doctor did not order commonly performed medical tests, such as an electrocardiogram, carotid ultrasound, or other laboratory tests. Maybe some tests were performed, but your doctor ignored the results.

Those would be examples of care that does not meet an acceptable standard in the medical profession, but they still do not prove medical malpractice happened.

You also need to show that the substandard care significantly contributed to you suffering an eventual heart attack. A specialist in treating heart attacks and other heart conditions could review your medical records and determine where your doctor might have violated the standard of care.

The medical expert also should be able to show how that substandard care directly caused or significantly contributed to you suffering a heart attack. When you can obtain that kind of evidence, you have the makings of a strong medical malpractice claim.

Your heart attack would suffice for proving that you suffered harm from the negligent medical care. Medical costs, lost income, and other damages could contribute to the evidence of medical malpractice and the harm that you suffered because of it.

Common Heart Attack Symptoms

The best way to recover from a heart attack is to know the symptoms and obtain medical care right away. Many people suffer from multiple symptoms that they could mistake for another condition, such as heartburn or bronchitis.

The more symptoms that you experience, the greater the possibility that you are suffering a heart attack. Some of the more telling symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain
  • Arm, jaw, or back pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • General weakness or fatigue

A heart attack could have many causes. A lack of blood flow and oxygen to the heart often is the result of one or more medical conditions that could make you more prone to suffering a heart attack. A genetic defect might weaken your heart over time.

No matter what the cause might be, it is important to know the symptoms of a heart attack and pay attention when one or more of them happen. Recognizing the symptoms and reacting properly could make a big difference in the potential impact of a heart attack.

What to Do if You Suspect You Are Having a Heart Attack

If you suspect you might be suffering from a heart attack, you need to get medical care right away. A trip to the emergency room could save your life.

The emergency room staff can help to stabilize your condition while providing you with critical medical care. If you are having a heart attack, you might have to undergo surgery to address a medical condition.

A blocked artery or constricted veins might lessen the blood flow and cause you to suffer a heart attack. A stent might help to restore normal blood flow and relieve pressure on your heart.

When you suffer a heart attack, your doctor likely will prescribe medication that you should take as directed for the rest of your life. The medication might help to control your condition.

You might be among those who have a family history of heart attacks or heart disease. Many kinds of genetic or health conditions might make you more vulnerable to suffering a heart attack. Regular medical checkups and annual physicals could help you to identify any condition that might make a heart attack more likely to happen.

How to Prevent Another Heart Attack

Death is the most serious harm caused by heart attacks. The CDC says heart attacks cause more than 650,000 deaths in the United States every year. They account for a fourth of all deaths in the nation.

The annual cost of heart attacks and heart disease is more than $360 million. Those costs include health care services, prescription drugs, and lost productivity when workers die of heart attacks.

A combination of medical care and changes in lifestyle and diet could help to reduce your chances of experiencing another heart attack.

Quitting smoking, exercising more, and losing excess weight are among the many ways in which lifestyle and dietary changes could help to prevent a repeat heart attack.

Medication also might help you to control any medical conditions that you might have that could make you prone to suffering a heart attack. Many prescription medications can thin the blood to make it easier to flow through restricted veins and partly clogged arteries. They can help to prevent blood clots that commonly cause heart attacks.

Other medications could help to control any coronary artery disease that might make you more prone to heart attacks.

A variety of medications and medical treatments might make it possible for you to live a relatively normal life without an especially high risk of suffering an additional heart attack. A proactive approach is best to help prevent additional heart attacks.


Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Patients Injured by a Misdiagnosis

If your doctor misdiagnosed your heart condition, reach out to the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton.  Our knowledgeable legal team will determine the cause of the misdiagnosis and hold the responsible parties accountable. We will help you get the compensation for which you are entitled.  Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.