Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association. Over the past three decades, more women than men have died from strokes, heart attacks and other heart-related illnesses and conditions.
Unfortunately, undetected, delayed and misdiagnosed heart disease is a big reason for the high number of deaths and injuries. According to Family Practice News, primary care physicians are much more likely than medical specialists to miss the signs of heart disease with their patients. An examination of medical malpractice claims brought against doctors by patients who suffered injuries and families of those who died found the following:
- Inadequate patient evaluation was a factor in more than three quarters of the claims.
- Failure to consult or refer the patient to a specialist was a factor for more than a quarter of the claims.
- Inaccurate documentation contributed to nearly 25 percent of the claims.
Emergency room care is especially dangerous for women with heart conditions as their symptoms are not what medical professionals classify as typical indications of heart problems.
Common symptoms for women
Most people associate chest pain with acute heart distress. Unfortunately, many women - as many as one in five - do not experience any chest pain and thus may be misdiagnosed. Emergency room professionals often dismiss women's complaints believing they are only suffering from heartburn, fatigue or anxiety.
It is important for women to know the symptoms of heart disease and insist on further testing when they feel something is not quite right. Common heart condition symptoms for women include the following:
- Weakness, fatigue or dizziness
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Pain in the left shoulder or arm
- Cold sweats
- Feeling hot
A common misdiagnosis
Clinics obsessed with getting patients in and out too quickly, overcrowded emergency rooms and distracted or inadequately trained medical care providers can easy miss blatant signs of heart disease. In an effort to find a quick diagnosis, a doctor may inaccurately grasp at the first issue that comes to mind.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in 12 people receive a diagnosis of asthma. However, wheezing and shortness of breath can be symptoms of heart failure as well and, in an effort to find a quick solution, a doctor may prescribe an inhaler instead of digging deeper for the real reason for a patient's distress. Extreme anxiety often presents similar symptoms to heart disease, leading to a misdiagnosis and an undetected heart condition.
A lawyer can help
When an undetected or misdiagnosed condition results in injury or death, consult a medical malpractice lawyer. Although permanent damage may have occurred and compensation can never replace a loved one, a lawsuit can help with ongoing medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost wages.