Why Heart Attacks Are So Commonly Misdiagnosed in Women
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, an average of 50,000 women die of heart attacks a year in the United States. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, as well. Given these two facts, one would believe more doctors would be careful with diagnosing women with heart attack symptoms. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
The New England Journal of Medicine reported a study that examined 10,000 patients who went to the emergency room for chest pains or other heart attack symptoms. 48% of those patients were women. Researchers found that women younger than 55 were seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed than males exhibiting the same symptoms. Given how prevalent a concern heart disease is, one would think doctors would examine their patients more closely.
Heart Attack Symptoms and Misdiagnosis in Women
Heart attacks are very serious complications. Also called myocardial infraction, heart attacks occur when your heart’s arteries are blocked, thus reducing or cutting off the blood supply to that section of the organ. The prolonged loss of blood and oxygen can render the artery useless. If detected and treated early, many patients can recover and sustain a healthy lifestyle. However, if doctors fail to diagnose a heart attack and cure it as such, victims not only risk lasting damage to their organs but also death.
One main reason researchers believe doctors misdiagnose women is because women do not always exhibit the same symptoms in man. Along with the usual chest pains, women can experience symptoms such as:
- Discomfort or pain in one or both arms
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in neck, jaw, and back
- Nausea and vomiting
- A sense of dread
- Cold sweats
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
Because these symptoms can signal varies doctors can fail to properly identify warning signs of a heart attack. Misdiagnosis will prevent women from receiving the care they need, thus jeopardizing their lives. Women will be given solutions for problems they may not have.
Some conditions heart attack symptoms can be mistaken for include:
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
- Acid Reflux
- Musculoskeletal Pain
Considering how prevalent heart disease in women is, doctors must examine their patients carefully. Failure to do so can lead to serious injuries and death. Hospital staff should look at a patient’s medical history and appropriately read any EKG or lab reports.
Some questions to ask if you believe you were misdiagnosed:
- What other condition can it be?
- Do my symptoms mimic symptoms for other illnesses?
- Is there anything that seems abnormal?
- Can I have more than one problem?
Some individuals may be too shy to ask necessary questions about their health. The shouldn’t be. Asking prodding questions in the beginning can help in the future.
If you or a loved one displayed symptoms for a heart attack and were misdiagnosed, you may be eligible for compensation! At Hampton & King, our medical malpractice attorneys dedicate their lives to helping malpractice victims. We understand how debilitating and painful a misdiagnosis can be. That is why we thoroughly research our clients’ cases, so that we can represent them in the best light. Call our Houston office today at (713) 489-0993 to schedule a free consultation.