Misdiagnosis of Chest Pain
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Chest pain is a common presenting complaint by persons entering an emergency room. Many different life-threatening conditions can present as chest pain. It is the job of the emergency room physician and staff to sort out the possible causes of chest pain. These can range from life-threatening conditions such as heart attack, pulmonary embolism, aortic dissection or aortic aneurysm rupture to minor conditions such as a pulled muscle or a virus. In order to sort out possible causes of chest pain a differential diagnosis must be done. This means that life-threatening causes that are treatable must be ruled out immediately by the physician. We have found that many times careful histories (speaking with patients) or physical examinations are not properly preformed with disastrous results for patients. Following a history and physical examination, depending on what the doctor has identified, various tests such as blood tests, chest x-rays, EKG, CT scan, MRI scans or ultrasounds may be indicated to sort out the underlying cause of the condition.
Heart attacks occur when there is an occlusion of the blood supply carrying oxygen to part of the heart. If identified promptly heart damage can be greatly reduced or even eliminated with medications, catheterization, stenting or other procedures. Emergency room physicians should be skilled in immediate recognition and treatment of this condition. Failure to diagnose the condition can result in death or heart failure.
Pulmonary embolisms are clots which break off from the legs or pelvis and travel through the right heart into the lungs. They can be fatal if not treated immediately with blood thinners or even, in some cases, surgery or thrombolysis. It is critical that when a patient presents with chest pain that this diagnosis is considered as prompt treatment is life-saving.
Pneumonia can be rapidly fatal and can present as chest pain. The treatment for pneumonia is generally intravenous antibiotic and other supportive therapy, quite different from the treatment for heart attack or pulmonary embolism. It is crucial that an emergency room physician in performing a differential diagnosis consider pneumonia as a possible cause of chest pain. The failure to diagnose this condition can result in death, debility from lung disease or infectious complications, or damage to other organs as a result of shock.
Aortic dissection is a condition in which the main artery carrying blood away from the heart tears. This can cause loss of blood, malfunction of the heart, and rapid death. It can be repaired surgically if it is promptly recognized. It is imperative that this diagnosis be considered in all persons presenting to a hospital with chest pain as prompt treatment for this is life-saving. Further, if anticoagulant or thrombolytic drugs are given to a person with this condition with the mistaken belief that they are having a heart attack, death may result.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you or a loved one presented to the emergency room or a doctor's office with chest pain and were not properly treated, you may have a case. At Biancheria & Maliver, our Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyers' experience with the investigation and proof of both liability and damages in cases of emergency room mistakes, can help maximize your recovery in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
For a free assessment and evaluation of your claim, contact the Pittsburgh medical malpractice attorneys at Biancheria & Maliver. Your case will always be personally reviewed by Deborah Maliver who is both an attorney and a board certified physician.