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Failure to Diagnose a Heart Attack as the Basis of a Medical Malpractice Case

Apr 23, 2015 | Medical Malpractice

Failure to recognize a heart attack has significant and dramatic implications for the patient. A heart attack can occur and kill a sizeable portion of your heart. If the attack is not recognized before it happens, or at the time it is happening, the results could be devastating, and is a strong reason for filing a medical malpractice case.

ER Fails to Diagnose a Heart Attack

Here is an actual case of a young man whose heart attack was not diagnosed in time. The patient developed chest pains and went to his local Emergency Room. While in the ER the staff hooked him up to a cardiac monitor, drew his blood, and performed a number of tests.

The doctor realized he needed more time to properly evaluate and see whether the patient was in fact having a heart attack. The hospital was so concerned that they admitted the patient into the hospital with the purpose of carrying out more tests. The hospital was considering putting the patient through a stress test, an echocardiogram, and drawing blood at regular intervals to monitor certain enzyme levels.

So, what went wrong with this patient’s care? It had nothing to do with the tests that were ordered, since all these tests were appropriate, and it was concrete medical practice to perform these tests. The problem arose when the doctors were interpreting those particular tests. They were interpreted incorrectly. In fact, the computers were giving read outs of abnormalities in the particular tests but the doctors ignored them and said they were not a big deal. The doctors termed these signs as artifacts and insignificant. They went on to declare that the patient’s condition was normal.

Cardiologist Misses Heart Attack as Well

The patient after being discharged from the hospital, followed up with his cardiologist, few weeks later since he was still having some chest pains. This cardiologist did not bother to get the results of the tests that were done at the hospital, and performed his own testing.

He declared the patient was fine, and told him to come back after a month for a checkup. The patient came back after a month as advised, and still complained of chest pains. Again, the doctor dismissed everything and said all the previous tests showed he was normal. The patient goes back again a third time, but the doctor again tells him there is nothing wrong.

Massive Heart Attack could have been Prevented with a Timely Diagnosis of the First One

A few days, after this last visit, the patient develops severe chest pain and has difficulty breathing. An ambulance is called and he is taken to the same ER where he was taken previously a few months earlier. Once the doctors hooked him up to the machines, they realized the patient was having a massive heart attack, and by that time, there was very little they could do, to save a large portion of his heart.

Further tests revealed that the patient had blockages in three major arteries, and if this was recognized three or four months earlier, the patient could have an elected triple bypass surgery, which would have prevented the massive heart attack that took his life.