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Misdiagnosing Heart Disease in Women

Coral Springs Medical Malpractice Lawyers

Failure to Diagnose a Woman's Heart Attack Symptoms May Constitute Medical Malpractice

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. Contrary to popular opinion, women are actually two to three times more likely to die as a result of heart disease than breast cancer. Despite the prevalence of heart disease amongst women, only a little more than half of women are aware that heart disease is their leading cause of death.

Many times, family doctors and even cardiologists fail to recognize heart disease in female patients. One of the reasons for this is that research into heart disease traditionally involved men (who were thought to experience heart attacks much more frequently than women). Regrettably, gender bias in medical research relating to heart disease in women is a large part of the problem of misdiagnosis of heart disease and heart attacks for women.

The New England Journal of Medicine conducted a study and found that women were seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed and discharged in the middle of having a heart attack. Procedures and therapies to treat heart disease often were developed predominantly (if not exclusively) to treat men. And one result of this is that women are now older and sicker when they have angioplasty or bypass surgery, and they receive fewer implantable defibrillators and heart transplantations than men. Historically, the medical community used male biology to determine symptoms and warning signs for most diseases. However, as we explain below, women sometimes present with slightly different symptoms than men during a heart attack.

If you or a woman you love has been injured due to delayed medical treatment or misdiagnosis, call our experienced Florida medical malpractice attorneys at (954) 833-1440 or contact us online to get started with a free case evaluation.

Medical Malpractice: When Doctors Misdiagnose or Delay Treatment

When seeking medical attention, we trust our doctors immensely. After all, doctors go to medical school for years and specialize in their chosen areas of practice. Why wouldn’t we trust them? However, even good doctors can act carelessly or negligently.

According to a recent study by BMJ Quality & Safety, an estimated 12 million adults receive a misdiagnosis in outpatient care each year.

While there is some uncertainty as to how frequently medical misdiagnosis actually leads to death in the United States, the number of deaths is unquestionably and unnecessarily high. Some studies have shown that medical error causes up to 251,000 deaths per year in the United States, which would make medical error the third leading cause of death in America. Other studies have put the number at approximately 44,000 – 98,000 deaths per year in the U.S., and one more recent study estimates that the number of deaths due to medical error is just over 22,000 deaths per year. Whatever the exact amount, the number of persons who die each year in this country due to preventable medical errors is clearly excessive.

Failure to Diagnose a Woman’s Heart Attack Symptoms May Constitute Medical Malpractice

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. Contrary to popular opinion, women are actually two to three times more likely to die as a result of heart disease than breast cancer. Despite the prevalence of heart disease amongst women, only a little more than half of women are aware that heart disease is their leading cause of death.

Many times, family doctors and even cardiologists fail to recognize heart disease in female patients. One of the reasons for this is that research into heart disease traditionally involved men (who were thought to experience heart attacks much more frequently than women). Regrettably, gender bias in medical research relating to heart disease in women is a large part of the problem of misdiagnosis of heart disease and heart attacks for women.

The New England Journal of Medicine conducted a study and found that women were seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed and discharged in the middle of having a heart attack. Procedures and therapies to treat heart disease often were developed predominantly (if not exclusively) to treat men. And one result of this is that women are now older and sicker when they have angioplasty or bypass surgery, and they receive fewer implantable defibrillators and heart transplants than men. Historically, the medical community used male biology to determine symptoms and warning signs for most diseases. However, as we explain below, women sometimes present with slightly different symptoms than men during a heart attack.

Misdiagnosing Heart Disease in Women

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. In 2019, heart disease killed 301,280 women, which accounted for nearly one in every five female deaths.

According to The Doctors Company:

  • In a study of closed medical malpractice claims from 2011 to 2015 involving undiagnosed heart disease in women, in 70% of the claims the patient died because of a heart disease going undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

  • In 28% of the cases, the patient suffered muscle damage from myocardial infarction.

Oftentimes, people think it is mostly just emergency room doctors making the mistakes. But 28% of the above-discussed medical malpractice cases were due to the patient’s primary care doctor allegedly failing to diagnose the heart condition. Emergency room physicians were named in 13% of the claims, while cardiologists were included in 28% of cases.

If you or somebody you love has suffered serious catastrophic injury or died due to delayed medical treatment or misdiagnosis, contact our medical negligence attorneys today. We believe negligent parties must be held accountable for their actions.

Differences in Treatment and Diagnosis Between Genders

Harvard Health Publishing, of Harvard Medical School, explored the issue of gender bias in medical diagnosis and treatment with their article, “Women and Pain: Disparities in Experience and Treatment.” Notably, the author of the article pointed to several studies that found a stark gender bias in medical treatment, including that:

  • For the same ailment, women are more likely to receive sedatives while their male counterparts receive pain medication.

  • Of those who experience chronic pain, 70% of patients are women. However, 80% of pain studies are conducted on male mice or men.

  • New studies are revealing women feel pain more intensely than men, and more research is currently underway. Scientific American magazine has suggested biology and hormones may play a significant role.

Heart Disease Symptoms and How Heart Attacks Affect Women Versus Men

According to the CDC, one person in the United States dies every 36 seconds from heart disease. Every year:

  • 805,000 people suffer a heart attack in the United States.

  • Of those, 605,000 are experiencing their first heart attack.

  • 1 in 5 heart attacks are silent, meaning the person is unaware that a heart attack occurred and showed little to no symptoms.

For men, a heart attack will typically present itself with symptoms such as:

  • Chest discomfort that can come and go.

  • The chest discomfort may not be experienced as pain, but rather pressure, squeezing, or fullness.

  • Discomfort or pain in the arms, back, neck, and jaw.

  • Shortness of breath.

For women, possible symptoms of a heart attack are slightly different than symptoms that men commonly experience, and include:

  • Chest and lower chest or upper abdomen pain or discomfort.

  • Dizziness or fainting.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Upper back pressure.

  • Extreme and unexplained fatigue.

  • In some cases, a person may mistakenly believe she has the flu or is experiencing acid reflux, when in reality she is having a heart attack.

Why Choose Our Florida Medical Malpractice Attorneys?

At Law Offices Cytryn & Velazquez, P.A., we understand that women are entitled to the same quality of medical treatment as men, but sadly our medical community oftentimes falls short of this requirement. Our attorneys are here to help when a medical professional has failed to diagnose your condition properly or delayed treatment, and you have suffered serious catastrophic permanent injury or there has been a death as a result.

Please contact us today for a free consultation by calling (954) 833-1440 to see if we think it may be a viable medical malpractice case.

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