While the term medical malpractice covers a broad range of complications, negligence can often be traced to a missed or delayed diagnosis. Unfortunately, when a doctor misdiagnoses a heart attack, it can lead to further trouble or fatalities.
Historically, medical professionals have worked through the diagnostic criteria for heart attacks for men and women in the same way. There is a growing body of research, however, that suggests that women can present different symptoms than men or present the same symptoms differently. If the medical professional is not accounting for these gender differences, the results can be catastrophic.
Whether from personal experience, anecdotal evidence or popular media, the textbook symptoms of a heart attack are fairly common. Individuals might experience chest pain, pain down the arm, shortness of breath and sweating. A study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes noted that women under the age of 55 often experience more variation in their symptoms as well as less-obvious heart attack symptoms. Additionally, women might experience these symptoms differently:
- Chest pain could manifest differently: While women often complain about chest pain as a heart attack symptom, the pain might present much later than it does in men. Additionally, the chest discomfort itself might present as less of a crushing pain than reported by men. For this reason, women might not see the symptom as a key factor causing the medical personnel to overlook its significance.
- Different symptoms: Women might present their heart attack with symptoms that could confuse medical professionals. Women could experience neck pain, jaw pain, dizziness, back pain and nausea. These symptoms are often different from the traditional heart attack symptoms and doctors might overlook them.
Individuals often equate medical malpractice with some level of intentional negligence. It is crucial to remember that even a mistake can have devastating consequences. Medical professionals must understand that men and women experience heart attack and stroke symptoms differently and let this fact inform their diagnoses. To misdiagnose a heart attack can lead to life-changing results and could prove an ultimately fatal medical error.