Medical Malpractice Newsletter
Undiagnosed Heart Disease and Malpractice
Cardiological specialists are required to adhere to a strict standard of care in diagnosis and treatment. If a specialist deviates from the standard of care and, as a result, a cardiac patient suffers an injury, then the specialist must assume the consequences of such injury.
Types of Cardiological Specialists
There are three different kinds of cardiological specialists:
- Adult cardiologist: Diagnoses, treats and prevents diseases and disorders of the heart and coronary arteries of adults
- Pediatric cardiologist: Diagnoses, treats and prevents diseases and disorders of the heart and coronary arteries in infants, children and teenagers
- Cardiac surgeon: Performs precise operations on the heart and coronary arteries in pediatric and adult patients
Commonly Litigated Issues
Even though cardiac surgeons employ more risk-laden procedures than cardiologists, the latter are sued much more frequently. In fact, the most litigated cardiological malpractice issue is the alleged failure of a cardiologist to diagnose and treat an imminent heart attack. A patient who has suffered a heart attack will typically claim the cardiologist should have made an early diagnosis, based on the presence of indicative symptoms. The patient may also contend that the cardiologist’s failure to prescribe additional diagnostic testing deprived the patient of a substantial chance of a cure or survival.
Alternatively, a patient may sue his cardiologist for failure to properly diagnose the patient’s disease or condition. The underlying misdiagnosis may be caused by one of the following:
- The cardiologist failed to recognize an existing disorder or diseased condition
- The cardiologist made an incorrect diagnosis
- The cardiologist diagnosed a disease or condition when the patient did not suffer from one
Common examples of cardiological malpractice that often result in severe injury or death include:
- Long-term failure to recognize or control hypertension, resulting in strokes
- Failure to diagnose and treat coronary artery disease, resulting in cardiac arrest
- Failure to recognize dissecting aneurysms or acute heart attacks, resulting in death or brain damage
In order to avoid medical malpractice liability, cardiological specialists and emergency room physicians must be especially attentive to patients complaining of chest pain. While not all chest pain is the result of a heart problem, some types of chest pain, especially recurrent chest pain, can signify potentially life-threatening heart problems. Cardiologists and emergency room physicians who fail to approach chest pain cases with a high level of suspicion and care could eventually be liable for medical malpractice.
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