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An overview of heart attack vs. heartburn misdiagnosis

On Behalf of | May 27, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

Doctors in Austin, Texas, must follow certain protocols in treating patients, or they could get sued for medical malpractice. Medical malpractice can have serious consequences or even be fatal for the patient. A common type of malpractice is misdiagnosis, which means the doctor erred in diagnosing the right condition, such as a heart attack mistaken for a heartburn.

Heart attack vs. heartburn

Heart attacks are among the top misdiagnosed conditions, which have similar symptoms as many other conditions. Statistics show that over 50% of patients suffering from a heart attack thought their symptoms were a condition unrelated to the heart. A heart attack may mimic angina, pneumonia, bronchitis and panic attacks, but it often resembles heartburn. Common heart attack symptoms include:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Radiating pain between the shoulder, neck and arms
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Fatigue

Heartburn has little do with the heart and relates more to digestion. During heartburn, the stomach juices cause a burning sensation to back up into the esophagus, commonly occurring after eating or lying down. Heartburn rarely causes breathlessness and usually gets better with antacids.

Other reasons heart attacks are misdiagnosed

In addition to similar conditions, a misdiagnosis could occur because a doctor neglected to access the patient’s medical history. A misdiagnosis also occurs from not ordering tests, misreading results and not narrowing down conditions. A health care professional who lacks experience diagnosing heart attacks can raise the risk of medical malpractice cases, especially in ERs or outpatient settings.

Heart attacks commonly get misdiagnosed in certain groups of people, such as women and athletes. Women often show different heart attack symptoms than men or show no signs, but they get tested based on male symptoms. It isn’t uncommon for an athlete to have an enlarged heart, causing a misdiagnosis of a thick heart, or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Medical malpractice cases are often difficult to navigate alone and need expert testimony to prove in court. Patients who think they suffered from malpractice may want to hire legal representation.