Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Case for Failing to Diagnose a Heart Attack?

We often hear about heart disease and heart attacks. From the more straightforward marketing campaigns of the American Heart Association to the more subtle mentions in Cheerio commercials, we have learned that heart attacks are a serious issue. Many times, impending heart attacks are not as obvious as the advertisements that strive to raise awareness of them. Doctors are trained on common signs and symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, and nausea. By failing to catch the condition early on, patients are put at risk.

When you or a loved one suffers a heart attack due to a doctor’s failure to diagnose and recognize the warning signs, you may have the right to pursue a medical malpractice case.

What Is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack is when the blood flow to the heart is significantly blocked, causing damage or destruction to part of the heart muscle. The blockage is usually caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis. Blood carries oxygen, and the heart muscle needs oxygen. The muscle tissue will die if deprived of the oxygen it needs. How much tissue is damaged depends upon the extent of the blockage and the duration of time that the blockage deprives the tissue of needed oxygen. A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, can cause significant damage to the heart or death if not treated in a timely manner.

What Are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack?

Symptoms can vary by sex and prior medical conditions. For example, diabetics can have little or no chest pain. But generally, the symptoms can include:

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the shoulder or arm

When a Heart Attack Is Caused by Negligence

Some heart attacks can happen suddenly. But often, there are warning signs such as chest pain or shortness of breath that are related to angina, a precursor to a heart attack. Angina is caused by a temporary decrease in blood flow to the heart muscle.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment of an impending heart attack is critical to salvaging heart muscle and avoiding catastrophic injury or death. A careless failure to timely diagnose and treat an impending heart attack or an acute heart attack is medical negligence.

What Are Some of the Ways that a Heart Attack Can be Timely Diagnosed?

An electrocardiogram or EKG is usually one of the first tests done to determine whether there may be an impending or acute heart attack. This device records electrical signals as they move through the heart and creates a printout. Typically, this printout or strip is reviewed by the emergency room physician or a cardiologist. The pattern of the electrical activity shown on the printout can show whether a heart attack has occurred in the past, is impending, or is happening.

Blood tests are also common to timely diagnose a heart attack. These blood tests check for certain blood markers that appear in the blood when damage is done to the heart, such as troponin. Since troponin levels can rise over time, it is common to do serial troponin tests to know whether the levels are rising or falling.

Other common tests are echocardiograms, coronary catheterizations, CT scans, and MRIs. Echocardiograms are a type of ultrasound that uses sound waves to create images of the heart and see how blood is flowing through the heart and how the heart muscles are working. Coronary catheterization is a procedure where a catheter is inserted through an artery in the leg to the heart, and, with the use of dye, imaging is created to look at the coronary arteries. CT scans and MRIs are also used to visualize the heart and chest.

If symptoms occur suggestive of angina or a heart attack and common tests were not performed, this may be medical negligence.

How Do the Lawyers at D’Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC in Watertown, CT Determine Whether There Was Medical Negligence for Failing to Timely Diagnose a Heart Attack?

Before any lawsuit can be brought for medical negligence in Connecticut, all medical records must be requested and received; and then reviewed by a doctor. The request is submitted by the lawyers, typically, and these records generally take 30-60 days to arrive. Once received, these medical records are carefully reviewed by lawyers at D’Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC, with vast experience in medical negligence, and then sent to a doctor trained and educated in the area of medicine at issue. Once the doctor’s review is complete, a medical-legal conference is held between the lawyers and the doctor to determine if the medical care at issue was negligent and whether that poor care caused a heart attack that could have been prevented. This investigative process can take many months or longer, depending on what is learned. Because of the length of time that this investigation can take, it is critical to contact a lawyer at D’Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC right away. There is limited time to bring a lawsuit for medical negligence, which can be as short as one year if a State of Connecticut-run medical facility is at issue. Generally, the limitation period is two years. This limitation period is set by Connecticut General Statutes § 52-584. There are certain rare exceptions to this, which can extend the time to three years.

If it is determined that the care at issue was bad and that the heart attack was preventable, then a lawsuit is filed. After a lawsuit is filed, there are many legal procedures that occur before a trial takes place. Some involve court hearings; some involve what is referred to as written discovery, where both sides ask the other to answer questions under oath or to exchange relevant documents; and still, others involve depositions where parties to the lawsuit, lay witnesses, and expert witnesses are asked questions under oath. All of these proceedings can take years to complete, typically two to five years before a trial can be held. Most trials are jury trials. For the jury selection process and the actual trial, it is common to take three to six weeks from start to finish.

Because of the meticulous investigation, zealous advocacy, and reputation of D’Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC, many medical negligence lawsuits are settled before a trial in court. A settlement may be achieved through a process of alternate dispute resolution, such as mediation. In mediation, a judge or experienced lawyer serves as a mediator helping the parties to arrive at a fair resolution of the medical negligence lawsuit.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Lawyer Experienced in Medical Malpractice for Failing to Timely Diagnose a Heart Attack at D’Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC

If you believe that you or your loved one received negligent care when experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, the qualified team of medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys at D’Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC are ready to help. Call our office today for a free consultation and case evaluation.