Medical Malpractice and Cardiac Catheterization: What Can Go Wrong and What Is Considered Medical Negligence? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

For a few decades now, heart disease has been the leading cause of fatalities in the US. Heart diseases cause more than 600,000 deaths every year, followed closely by cancer and respiratory afflictions.  

Cardiac conditions mostly stem from an unhealthy lifestyle, with a healthy diet and regular exercise playing an important part in their prevention. Often, speedy diagnosis can be the difference between life and death for a patient suffering from heart disease. Early recognition of symptoms coupled with accurate diagnosis makes it easier to treat.

Failure to pick up early signs and diagnose a cardiac condition can sometimes cause severe complications in a patient. If a doctor or healthcare professional’s negligence leads to the heart condition going undiagnosed, they can be held liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit. 

What Is A Cardiac Condition?

Any blockage or impairment to the proper functioning of the heart can cause a cardiac condition. A cardiac condition primarily affects the flow of blood supply from the heart to different organs of our bodies through arteries. These conditions include:

  • Heart Attacks
  • Valvular Heart Disease
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Aortic Aneurysms
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Heart Infections
  • Arrhythmia

There are high chances of misdiagnoses in these cardiac conditions because symptoms like chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, and anxiety are common to other conditions as well.

Diagnostic Tests for Cardiac Conditions

Starting with routine physical examination, including heart rate, blood pressure, and the patient’s general medical history, a physician may order the following tests if they have a reason to suspect a graver problem:

  • Blood Tests
  • Echocardiography
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Chest X-rays
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Multiple-Gated Acquisition Scanning
  • Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic treatment for specific cardiovascular conditions. During this procedure, doctors insert a long thin tubular device (catheter) through a vein or an artery in the arm, neck, or groin, that is then threaded to the heart through blood vessels.

Doctors use this catheter to run diagnostic tests like an angiogram or for heart ailment procedures like stenting or angioplasty. During an angiogram, doctors inject a dye through the catheter to view blood vessel blockages that might affect the blood flow to the heart.

The doctors administer medications to the patient, who remains awake through the procedure, to help them relax. Cardiac catheterization is a quick, low-risk procedure, with a fast recovery time.

As a diagnostic procedure, your doctor can use cardiac catheterization for:


To detect blockages or narrowing of blood vessels that could be the cause of chest pains

Hemodynamic Assessment

To measure oxygen levels and pressure in certain parts of your heart


To test your heart’s pumping function


To extract a tissue sample from your heart

Congenital Heart Defects

To investigate heart defects that exist since birth

What Can Go Wrong in A Cardiac Catheterization?

Although extensive complications are uncommon, cardiac catheterization carries some risks, as with any procedure involving heart and blood vessels. Some of these risks are:

  • Bleeding
  • Bruising
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney damage
  • Arrhythmia (Irregular heart rate)
  • Injury to the heart, artery, or catheter insertion area
  • Allergy to the medication or dye

Risk of Mortality in Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is one of the most prevalent heartcare procedures, with more than 1,000,000 performed in the US every year. As a result, some complications are par for the course, whether related to procedure or the patient.

Statistically, the prospect of major complications in cardiac catheterization is generally below 1%, and mortality risk in diagnostic procedures is 0.05%. The rate of complication varies for patients, depending upon multiple factors like demographics, co-morbidities, clinical presentation, and operator experience.

The complications, rare as they are, may range from as minor as discomfort at the catheterization site to as major as a fatality.

Wrongful Death and Malpractice Lawsuit

Sometimes, a gross error made by the doctors during a cardiac procedure might result in the death of the patient. The law entitles family members or loved ones of the deceased to file a lawsuit against the negligence or wrongdoing on part of the medical practitioner or institution.

The deceased patient’s family can file a malpractice lawsuit to seek compensation for funeral expenses, lost financial support, pain and suffering experienced by the patient, and other damages. It is important for the patient’s family members to speak with a Virginia medical malpractice attorney for competent and skilled guidance as soon as possible.

How to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

It is vital for the deceased patient’s loved ones to meet and retain a malpractice lawyer to help them evaluate their malpractice claim. Filing a medical malpractice suit can be a challenging task at best, with laws making it more arduous than general lawsuits. Some of the challenges in a malpractice lawsuit are:

Requirements Prior to the Lawsuit

The plaintiff needs to meet several requirements before they can file the lawsuit

Damages Cap

The plaintiff cannot recover more than the cap on damages as prescribed by law in the state of Virginia

Expert Witnesses

The plaintiff must include medical witnesses in their testimony to strengthen their compensation claim  

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations in a Virginia medical malpractice case is two years

Experienced Virginia Attorney for Your Medical Malpractice

If you or a loved one is the victim of neglect of a healthcare professional, do not wait to contact us at Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp, to receive a free initial consultation from a medical malpractice attorney on our team. Our competent lawyers can skillfully guide you and help you secure the settlement that you rightfully deserve. Give us a call today at (833) 997-1774 or contact us online.