When ER Personnel Miss Heart Attack Symptoms

People go to the emergency room (ER) for help and treatment, not to be injured. But injuries occur in emergency rooms every day across the country due to medical negligence. While the types of injuries that occur due to ER negligence vary in significance, one serious and even fatal mistake that can be made is failure to diagnose the symptoms of a heart attack.

Understanding Heart Attack Signs and Symptoms

When someone thinks of having a heart attack, the image of an elephant comes to mind. Many people assume they will experience heavy pressure like that of an elephant sitting on their chest. Others assume a heart attack will only come on like it is portrayed in the movies, where a man is shown clutching his chest and falling to the ground with stabbing pain. While these scenarios do occur for some people experiencing heart attacks, others may experience different signs. In either event, most heart attacks start off with obvious signs and symptoms that cause a person to call 9-1-1. However, sometimes heart attack symptoms come on slowly and a person gets himself to the ER.

Because women experiencing a heart attack often have different symptoms than men, emergency room staff may fail to recognize these symptoms as something urgent. Thus, they make women sit in the waiting room too long before seeing a doctor. For example, while a man may experience chest pain and pain in his left arm, a woman may never experience pain in her left arm. She may have pain in one arm, both arms, or no arm pain. Sadly, medical negligence in the ER is responsible for many missed and misdiagnosed heart attacks.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack for Women

Because it can be hard to determine whether a woman is having a heart attack, we recommend reviewing common signs of heart attacks in women. The most common symptoms include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort, squeezing, pressure, feeling of fullness, or a feeling like heart burn
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, upper back, one or both arms, or stomach
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea and flu-like symptoms
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat

Although women do experience chest pain during heart attacks, many women just feel pressure in their lower chest and experience jaw pain, upper back pain, shortness of breath and nausea, as well as the other symptoms listed above. Because these symptoms don’t cause a person to dramatically clutch her chest and fall to the ground, many women are not aware that they are having a heart attack. But emergency rooms should not be confused when a women presents herself with these symptoms, as they are trained to recognize these life-threatening signs. Unfortunately, sometimes these symptoms get misdiagnosed in ERs as flu, acid reflux, or gastrointestinal problems, and female victims experiencing heart attacks don’t get the help they need as quickly as they should.

When Heart Attacks Are Missed by Medical Professionals

Medical professionals have been known to make critical mistakes—even when diagnosing heart attacks. Whether a woman’s heart attack signs and symptoms are misdiagnosed by ER staff, a doctor diagnoses a person’s symptoms as another health condition such as acid reflux, or a patient isn’t seen in time due to the chaotic nature of emergency rooms, any of these ER errors could be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

If you have experienced damage to your heart or other disabling effects, or have lost a loved one due to an overlooked or misdiagnosed heart attack in the ER, you need to speak with a lawyer who is experienced in medical malpractice and wrongful death law. Please Contact Us by filling out a short form on our website or calling our office for a free consultation.


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