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Study: Doctors Often Fail to Diagnose Heart Attacks in Women Patients

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Does gender matter when a doctor is attempting to diagnose a patient? One study concluded that the significant differneces in heart attack symptoms between men and women account for the high number of misdiagnoses by physicians of their female patients.

The Study

The Doctors Company examined closed malpractice claims against physicians who had either failed to diagnosis or misdiagnosed heart attacks and/or disease in female patients. The study found — in over 70 percent of the claims — that the patient died because of the doctor’s failure to recognize heart attack symptoms. 28 percent of the women had muscle damage to their hearts from the attacks.

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Although the emergency room is typically where most people think the failure to diagnose originates, the study determined that in half of these cases it was the patient’s primary care physician who did not recognize the patient was suffering from heart disease. In 22 percent of the cases, it was a cardiologist who failed to make the diagnosis, and in 17 percent of the cases, an emergency room doctor.

One case study highlighted in the study involved a 47-year-old woman who went to her primary care doctor complaining of a burning sensation occurring in her chest after she ate. The woman told her doctor that she had the same symptoms the day before and had been suffering from increased heartburn for several weeks. The woman, who was obese, had higher than normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels over the prior six months, as well as the day of her visit. She was also a smoker.

The physician diagnosed the woman with heartburn and told her to take an antacid. Two days later, she called the doctor’s office complaining of a continuation of the same burning in her chest. The nurse told her to continue with the antacids and scheduled an office appointment for the next day. However, that night, the woman woke up with chest pains and vomiting. She was rushed to the hospital, but died soon after arriving.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, and kills one in four women every year. Yet only 54 percent of women are aware of this statistic. And 65 percent of women who die from heart disease had no prior symptoms.

Let a Va. Injury Attorney Fight for You

If a physician has failed to diagnose heart disease, or any other health condition, for you or someone in your family, contact an experienced Virginia medical malpractice attorney to find out what legal options you may have against medical personnel and/or medical facility responsible for your condition.

Eric K. Washburn
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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