Once upon a time, heart disease was considered almost an exclusively male condition. However, today we know that the leading cause of death in women is heart disease.
One of the reasons that so many women die from heart-related conditions is that they, their loved ones and too often their doctors don’t realize they’re having a heart attack – technically an acute myocardial infarction (AMI) — when they are.
Common non-chest pain symptoms
That’s in part because women often have symptoms that are not “traditionally” associated with heart attacks. These can include:
- Stomach pain
- Neck, jaw and back pain
- Extreme fatigue
Most women, but not all, also experience some kind of chest pain during a heart attack. However, they often write off their symptoms as acid reflux or indigestion.
Doctors are less likely to connect these symptoms to heart attacks in women
In one study of about 3,000 men and women who’d been hospitalized for AMI, 62% of the women initially had four or more symptoms that didn’t involve chest pain. Almost 55% of the men did. Further, 53% of women said their doctor “did not think the symptoms were heart-related.” Fewer than 37% of men reported that.
If a person doesn’t see a doctor or that doctor doesn’t do the requisite tests to rule out the possibility of a heart attack, it’s more likely to result in serious heart damage or prove fatal than if the appropriate course of treatment had begun sooner.
When is it malpractice to miss a heart attack?
Doctors can’t be expected to be correct 100% of the time in their diagnoses or anything else they do. However, when our health and our lives could be at stake, they are expected to provide a certain standard of care.
When a failure to diagnose a condition or a misdiagnosis results in harm or death, patients and surviving loved ones have a right to determine whether a doctor’s action or inaction amounted to medical malpractice. An experienced attorney can provide valuable information and guidance.