We hope that our last post here on our Ann Arbor medical malpractice law blog got our readers thinking about how they might handle a situation in which they suspect that a physician has failed to diagnose a heart condition. In that story, a patient died during gallbladder surgery because of his providers' failure to diagnose heart failure. Let's look at some of the signs that should ordinarily serve as red flags to doctors that a patient may be suffering heart failure, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
First, however, a definition. "Heart failure" is not the same thing as cardiac arrest, in which the heart stops beating. When we talk about heart failure, we're describing a heart that is unable to pump all the blood the body requires. It could be because either the heart can't pump strongly enough, or perhaps it can't fill up with enough blood -- or, in some cases, both may occur at once.
When Ann Arbor residents are suffering from heart failure, they will generally present with certain symptoms. Feeling short of breath and tiredness are among the most common signs. Patients may have to stop and catch their breath after going up a flight of stairs or even putting on their clothes. They may also have swelling in the lower extremities, abdomen and neck veins. A cough that gets more serious when lying down could be a particularly serious sign that requires urgent care.
Some groups of people -- including those over 65, African Americans, those who are overweight and those who have previously had a heart attack -- are at a higher risk of heart failure. So are men in general compared to women. But over 5 million people in this country have heart failure, so it's important for everyone to understand.
In particular, those who have either had heart failure misdiagnosed or who have had a loved one experience a misdiagnosis will be left with questions. How was the condition not detected or mistaken for something else? What can be done now that a misdiagnosis or delayed treatment has led to a worsened condition or even death? While this blog post represents general information only, a legal professional can help victims begin to answer these questions and discuss their specific legal rights and options.
Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, "What Is Heart Failure?," accessed on Feb. 27, 2015