Heart Attack Misdiagnosis Is More Common In Women
At first, the woman assumed it was anxiety. She had a full-time job as a manager and was the mother of four kids who needed to be taken to multiple athletic events and appointments. But the chest pain, numbness in her arm, shortness of breath and other symptoms were not just a sign of her hectic life.
They were symptoms of a heart attack.
The woman was lucky. She called 911 and was taken to the hospital, where she received a proper diagnosis and treatment. Not all women share the same fate.Misdiagnosis And Delayed Diagnosis More Common In Women
Women are more likely than men to suffer from a misdiagnosis of a heart attack or a delayed diagnosis of heart attack. According to the website hearthealthywomen.org, one study shows women younger than age 55 were seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed than men of the same age. Being sent from the hospital without being properly diagnosed doubled a patient’s chance of dying.
In addition to misdiagnoses, women more frequently receive delayed treatment for heart attacks. According to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a 2009 study of more than 5,800 people with heart attack symptoms who called 911 found that women were 52 percent more likely than men to be delayed in reaching the hospital after dialing 911. Delays can be deadly. Delays of 15 minutes have been shown to increase damage to the heart muscle, resulting in poorer outcomes.Doctors And Patients Miss Symptoms
Why the difference? According to hearthealthywomen.org, one possible reason is a myth. Heart disease is often thought of as a man’s disease, but it is not. Heart disease killed 28,370 women in California in 2009. An average of 100 women die from heart attack and stroke in the state every day.
Doctors could miss the signs of heart attack in women simply because they are not expecting them. Women themselves are less likely than men to realize that their symptoms could be heart attack, and they are less likely to seek treatment right away.
Women’s symptoms are often different and more subtle than the heart attack symptoms men experience. Although men and women may have crushing chest pressure, some women may have a heart attack without any. According to the American Heart Association, they may have:
- Shortness of breath
- Pressure in the lower chest and upper abdomen
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Upper back pain
Doctors and emergency departments have a responsibility to promptly diagnose and treat heart disease even when the symptoms are subtle. Minutes count. If you or a loved one has been harmed by a doctor’s failure to diagnose you with heart attack, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can explain your options and evaluate your case. Contact our northern California law office at (408) 289-1417 for a free consultation today.