When someone goes to an emergency room, they do so because they fear something is very wrong. In most cases, the doctors and nurses who work in the emergency room do an excellent job diagnosing and treating their patients. Emergency room staff focus on making accurate diagnoses and commencing treatment promptly. It is important that the physicians and nurses in the emergency room are aware of the signs and symptoms of life-threatening situations and are prepared to treat the problem with skill and in an appropriate way. However, there are times when a physician does not listen to the complaints of the patient or makes a mistake when assessing the situation. At other times the patient may not have provided enough information. This could lead to a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a life-threatening problem, such as a heart attack.
Heart attacks occur when the blood supply to a part of the heart is reduced severely or stopped. This occurs when there are one or more blockages in the coronary arteries that supplies blood to the heart muscle. Within the inner linings of these blood vessels, deposits of cholesterol and other fat-like substances can build up and become coated with scar tissue. This will result in a thickening in the blood vessel known as plaque. This narrows the inside of the artery to the point that not enough oxygen-rich blood can be supplied to the heart and a cramping of the muscle, called ischemia, occurs. If ischemia is prolonged then death to cardiac cells can result. Depending on how much heart muscle is affected, a person can be disabled or even die.
In emergency rooms, a heart attack may be misdiagnosed as heartburn, indigestion, or another ailment. Each situation is unique and needs to be analyzed under its own facts. However, it is not considered acceptable practice for a physician to determine that a patient who is experiencing chest pain is not having a heart attack at that moment and send the patient home. The doctor should investigate the symptoms using the diagnostic and therapeutic tools available.
Guidelines, policies and procedures are changing the way patients who go to the emergency room with chest pain are evaluated and treated. These advances help to prevent misdiagnoses, which could lead to unnecessary procedures, expensive medical bills, lost wages, or even death.
But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.