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4 common factors that cause misdiagnosed heart attacks

On Behalf of | Jun 25, 2024 | Medical Malpractice |

Heart attacks, or myocardial infections, are among the leading causes of death worldwide. Yet, undetected heart attacks can be common. While classic symptoms like crushing chest pain are well-known, heart attacks can manifest in surprising ways. These often lead to misdiagnosis and potentially delay critical treatment.

Atypical symptoms

The wide range of symptoms patients may experience can cause heart attacks to be undetected. Not everyone experiences heart attacks portrayed in movies and TV with radiating chest pain. Many individuals experience less typical symptoms. These can include shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, sweating, dizziness, fatigue and pain in other areas such as the jaw, neck, back or arms. These can be easily mistaken for other conditions, throwing diagnosis off course.

Similarity to other diseases

Heart attacks can present itself in ways that mimic other medical conditions. Some heart attacks appear as mild discomfort in the chest area that patients might dismiss. They may attribute it to heartburn, indigestion or anxiety. It can also appear as a respiratory condition, such as pneumonia. These overlapping symptoms can make it challenging for healthcare providers to diagnose a heart attack quickly and accurately.

Diagnostic tool limitations

The diagnostic tools used to detect heart attacks have their limitations. Electrocardiograms (ECGs) can sometimes appear normal even when a patient is experiencing a cardiac episode. This is particularly common in the initial stages of an attack. Cardiac enzyme levels take time to rise to detectable levels in the bloodstream. Consequently, initial tests may not always provide clear evidence of a heart attack. Cases similar to these lead to potential misdiagnosis.

Human error

Human factors also play a significant role in the misdiagnosis of heart attacks. Sometimes, preconceived notions about who gets heart attacks can cloud judgment. Doctors might be less likely to suspect a heart attack in a young, seemingly healthy patient, leading to missed diagnoses. Additionally, the pressure of a high-stress environment, such as an emergency room, may be a factor. An incomplete medical history of the patient can also complicate the diagnostic process.

Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention if you feel any discomfort in your chest. Early diagnosis and intervention of heart attacks are crucial for minimizing heart damage. If you have further concerns, advocate for yourself and insist on a thorough evaluation.


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