Heart Attack Medical Malpractice Lawsuits: When Do Victims Have a Case?

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Medical Malpractice Published on May 15, 2024 and updated on June 11, 2024.

man experiencing chest painThere are hundreds of thousands of heart attacks each year. Despite how often they occur, doctors often misdiagnose heart attacks as something else. Sometimes this has fatal consequences, as patients die because they did not receive the treatment they needed in time.

Below, our Maryland medical malpractice lawyers discuss when patients who had heart attacks that were misdiagnosed or not treated may be able to file medical malpractice lawsuits.

If you or a loved one were misdiagnosed after suffering a heart attack, or you think you were a victim of some other type of medical malpractice, you may be able to seek compensation. We have recovered millions in compensation for victims of medical malpractice in Maryland. Call to discuss the details of your situation with a member of our legal team.

Call To Learn More: 410-297-0271.

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

A heart attack is what doctors call it when blood flow to your heart stops or gets blocked. This can be fatal without immediate treatment. Even if doctors restore blood flow to the heart, patients are at risk for future heart attacks, kidney disease, peripheral artery disease or strokes.

Recognizing these common heart attack symptoms quickly could save your life or someone else’s:

  • Chest pain, tightness, aching or pressure
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain that spreads to your shoulder, arm, upper abdomen, back, neck or jaw
  • Cold sweat
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy

How Could Doctors Misdiagnose a Heart Attack?

A heart attack can be difficult to identify because symptoms often vary for each person. Symptoms may be mild, severe or completely nonexistent. Note that some people show their warning signs of a heart attack hours or even weeks ahead of time.

Most people who suffer a heart attack are not going to be grasping at their chests and keeling over in pain. In fact, many heart attack victims can walk into an emergency room or their primary care physician’s office.

It is also worth noting that heart attack symptoms often mirror symptoms of many other medical conditions. It can be difficult to rule out those other ailments and confirm that patient is suffering a heart attack.

Common examples of these other conditions include bronchitis, acid reflux, panic attacks and heartburn. These conditions often cause burning sensations or feelings of sharp pain.

These are some of the most common reasons doctors fail to recognize a heart attack:

  • Minor Symptoms: If a heart attack patient complains of nausea or fatigue, a doctor might not expect those to be the only symptoms the patient would suffer during a heart attack. Thus, the doctor does not see a reason to perform any testing to detect a heart attack.
  • Normal test results: An electrocardiogram (EKG) is the standard test doctors use to diagnose heart attacks. An EKG measures the heart’s electrical impulse activity. If the EKG results come back normal, a doctor may have no reason to believe the patient is suffering a heart attack.
  • Not conducting medical testing or evaluation: On the other side, doctors heavily rely on EKG testing to diagnose a heart attack. If a doctor does not perform this test or a complete medical evaluation of his or her patient, misdiagnosis may be much more likely to happen.
  • Not obtaining medical records: High blood pressure and high cholesterol are just two conditions that increase someone’s risk of heart attack. Failure to review a patient’s medical and family history could result in a doctor missing clear warning signs of a heart attack.
  • An atypical patient: Heart disease is more prevalent among older men with certain conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. A doctor may not expect a younger patient or a woman to be experiencing a heart attack, especially if their symptoms are atypical. Some atypical symptoms that can be associated with a heart attack, especially in women, include trouble sleeping, heavy arms, abdominal burning, or a flushed (reddened) face or skin.

The Dangers of Heart Attack Misdiagnosis

Misdiagnosing a heart attack can result in devastating consequences that could affect victims for the rest of their lives:

Muscle Damage

When your heart does not get the blood or oxygen it needs, your muscle cells can begin to die, ultimately leaving permanent damage.

Heart Failure

If the heart attack you suffer causes extensive damage, your heart may lose its ability to effectively pump blood throughout your body.

Permanent Brain Damage

Your brain needs blood and oxygen at all times. If your brain goes without either one for too long, it can cause irreparable damage.

Higher Risk of Kidney Failure

Heart attacks can reduce the supply of blood to the kidneys, causing significant damage. Impaired kidney function makes it harder for your body to clean your blood.

Higher Risk of a Stroke

This is often the case for the first year after the heart attack. Heart attacks can impair blood flow to the brain, eventually leading to a stroke.

While heart attack misdiagnosis is not always fatal, it can have a variety of serious consequences. Treatment for the effects of a misdiagnosed heart attack can be very costly, and your injuries can hurt your quality of life.

Victims of a misdiagnosed heart attack, or some other form of heart attack malpractice should consider their potential legal options.

Do I Have a Valid Maryland Medical Malpractice Case?

You may be able to file a lawsuit over the misdiagnosis of your or your loved one’s heart attack. The central question of this type of case is whether doctors failed to uphold the standard of care. Your lawyer must provide evidence that doctors did not provide the type of treatment that similarly trained medical professionals would have provided in a similar situation.

The experienced attorneys at The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl know how to investigate these complex situations to determine when and how malpractice may have occurred. We can obtain and review the relevant medical records, with the help of relevant medical experts.

For example, we can evaluate the timeline of when your doctor administered an EKG. Was this test done quickly enough? Did doctors take note of all your symptoms when determining a potential diagnosis and testing and treatment options? If you or your loved one waited 20 or 30 minutes or more for an EKG, there may be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Was Your Heart Attack Misdiagnosed? Call The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl

If you suffered a heart attack and doctors did not provide adequate treatment, our lawyers may be able to assist you with filing a claim for compensation. Call us to discuss what happened to you or your loved one and why you think you may have a case.

Our experienced law firm is dedicated to seeking full compensation for those injured by the medical malpractice of doctors and other health care providers. We do not charge any upfront fees.

Schedule Your Free Consultation Today. Call: 410-297-0271.