Failure to Diagnose Heart Attacks and Strokes
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Strokes (aka Cerebrovascular Accidents or CVA’s) are the third leading cause of death. (National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006). Coronary heart disease, which causes heart attacks, was responsible for 479,305 deaths in the United States in 2003, while strokes killed 157,804 people in the same year.
Internists, cardiologists, emergency room physicians, and other doctors as well as nurses must know the classic warning signs of these common killers.
Heart attack warning signs (American Heart Association)
- Chest discomfort (can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain);
- Discomfort in other areas of the body (pain or discomfort in both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach);
- Shortness of breath;
- Other signs: cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Stroke Warning Signs (American Heart Association)
- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body;
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding;
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes;
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination;
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Even before a person suffers a heart attack or stroke, a primary care physician must help patients to identify and address risk factors. For example, to prevent heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest, if a person has an abnormal EKG (electrocardiogram) test, further testing such as a stress test, echocardiogram, etc., may be necessary. Then, if necessary, medication or surgery (angioplasty, bypass surgery or other procedures) can be utilized to minimize risk and improve the length and quality of a patient’s life.
Addressing cardiovascular disease can lower the risk of a stroke. There are two major kinds of strokes: Ischemic strokes (aka “dry strokes” involving blockage of oxygen carrying blood flow to the brain) and hemorrhagic strokes (aka “wet strokes” involving bleeding of the brain). Mini-strokes are called transient ischemic attacks. A physician’s failure to identify any type of stroke including mini-strokes, which elevate the risk of further and more serious strokes, can cause a patient significant harm.
Sometimes, quite astoundingly, doctors and nurses miss these classic signs and symptoms and fail to give people the emergency care that they need and deserve with tragic consequences. If treated urgently and properly, many heart attacks and strokes can be survived without any long term, major disability. However, delay in treatment can be either totally disabling or deadly.
When a doctor fails to make a timely diagnosis of a heart attack or stroke in the face of clear signs and symptoms, the doctor can be liable due to medical malpractice for the resulting harm.
If you or a loved one has been injured by failure to diagnose a heart attack or stroke and you would like to speak with an experienced Miami, Fl. medical malpractice lawyer, please contact us to speak to one of the heart attack lawyers at Boyers Law Group, for a free consultation about your legal rights.