Can I Claim For A Misdiagnosed Heart Attack?
The Law Of… Compensating Life-Threatening Errors
A heart attack presents a serious emergency that requires fast and decisive action to prevent it escalating and becoming potentially fatal. Medical Negligence Solicitor, Alison Hills, answers frequently asked questions on misdiagnosed and mismanaged heart attacks.
What Is A Heart Attack?
A heart attack is a type of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) that occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is suddenly reduced or stopped. Technically referred to as a myocardial infarction (MI), a heart attack is a life-threatening condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated swiftly to prevent further complications and possible death.
There are a number of factors that can cause a heart attack, the primary one being coronary heart disease (CHD).
What Are The Symptoms Of A Heart Attack?
There are various symptoms that can present during a heart attack, including:
- Chest pains – Chest pains are a common symptom of a heart attack and can manifest as heavy pressure, tightness or a squeezing sensation.
- Pain in the left arm – A radiating, or shooting pain from the chest and down the left arm can be another signifier of a heart attack.
- Pain elsewhere – Similar radiating pains in the right arm, back, abdomen, neck or jaw may also indicate a heart attack.
- Difficulty breathing – Sudden shortness of breath may be a warning of many things, but it can also mean a heart attack. Where it is the only symptom that presents, this is known as a 'silent' heart attack.
- General feeling of unwell – Dizziness, sweating, light-headedness, nausea and vomiting.
- Intense anxiety – A feeling similar to a panic attack.
If you are suffering any of these symptoms and suspect a heart attack you should seek immediate medical attention. Either call 999 or attend your nearest Accident & Emergency. It is always best to err on the side of caution.
What Causes A Heart Attack?
The chief cause of heart attacks in the UK is coronary heart disease (CHD). This is a condition that causes blood vessels servicing the heart to clog up with cholesterol. These deposits are called plaques, with problems arising if the plaque bursts. A rupture of this nature can create a blood clot, which can affect the flow of blood and cause a heart attack.
Other factors that may interrupt the blood supply to the heart include drug abuse, with certain stimulants having the potential to narrow the blood vessels.
What Complications Can A Heart Attack Cause?
The key complication of a major heart attack is death. This can be both avoidable and unavoidable. Avoidable if treatment is not received in time, unavoidable where treatment would have made no difference to the outcome.
Other complications of a heart attack include:
- Heart failure – If an attack causes enough damage to the heart muscle, it can lead to the failure of that organ. This weakens its ability to transmit blood effectively throughout the body and can be signalled by a shortness of breath and fluid build-up in the arms and legs.
- Cardiogenic shock – Severe damage to the heart muscle resulting from a heart attack can cause cardiogenic shock. This condition diminishes the supply of blood around the body to the extent that it affects the ability to perform many of the body's functions. Symptoms of cardiogenic shock include breathing difficulty, cold extremities and mental confusion.
- Arrhythmia – A heart damaged by a heart attack can develop an abnormal beat, which is known as an arrhythmia. The condition may result in an abnormally quick, slow or irregular heartbeat, with possible symptoms of arrhythmia including heart palpitations, dizziness, breathing difficulties and fatigue.
Complications caused by a heart attack can themselves be life-threatening and may require extensive treatment to prevent fatality.
How Should A Heart Attack Be Treated?
Primarily, a heart attack should be treated with great urgency. Failure to act quickly can lead to death. If you suspect a heart attack you should always seek immediate medical advice, either by phoning for an ambulance or attending Accident & Emergency.
The NHS advises chewing and swallowing an aspirin (so long as you are not allergic) if you are waiting for an ambulance, as this can help thin the blood. Do not exceed the normal recommended dosage.
Once you are at the hospital, you will be assessed and the treatment will depend upon the severity of the heart attack. For the most serious kind, emergency surgery is required. Medication that can dissolve blood clots will be prescribed where the threat is less critical.
Available treatments include:
- Thrombolytics and fibrinolytics – Special drugs that can break down the blood clots and are applied intravenously.
- Coronary angioplasty – Surgery to widen the affected artery, involving a balloon catheter and the insertion of a stent.
- Coronary artery bypass graft – A procedure, undertaken where a coronary angioplasty isn't possible, that creates a bypass of the damaged arteries using a blood vessel taken from elsewhere in the body.
A quick diagnosis and assessment is essential to ensuring the treatment corresponds with the severity of the heart attack.
What If A Heart Attack Is Misdiagnosed Or Mismanaged?
If your heart attack was misdiagnosed or improperly treated, resulting in in further complications, suffering or ongoing health problems, you may be entitled to compensation.
If a loved one passed away as a result of a mismanaged or misdiagnosed heart attack, you may have grounds to make a claim for damages on their behalf. Any such claim would take into account not only the pain and suffering of the deceased, but also the impact their death has had on you and your family.
Why Should I Make A Claim For A Misdiagnosed Heart Attack?
A successful claim for a misdiagnosed heart attack or one that was mismanaged will:
- Raise awareness of the medical negligence that occurred and help to ensure it is not repeated with other patients
- Provide a financial settlement that can help you readjust to life and the challenges you face following your heart attack or the death of a loved one.
How Do I Make A Compensation Claim For A Misdiagnosed Heart Attack?
To make a compensation claim for a misdiagnosed or mismanaged heart attack, you will need to seek professional legal advice. This should be from an independent law firm with proven experience in winning cases where clinical error has occurred.
The Medical Negligence team at Simpson Millar specialises in successfully handling complex claims of this nature, ensuring you get the level of damages you are entitled to.
How Long Do I Have To Make A Claim For A Misdiagnosed Heart Attack?
You have 3 years from either the date of the heart attack or from when the effects of any resulting complications were diagnosed to make your claim.
If your claim is for the loss of a loved one (adult or child) due to a mismanaged or misdiagnosed heart attack, you have 3 years from the date of their passing.
For a claim concerning a child, you have until they reach the age of 18 to begin proceedings on their behalf, after which the 3 year limitation applies as normal. If your child is classed as a 'Protected Person' and incapable of managing their affairs due to mental disorder, there is no time limit on making a claim once they have reached adulthood.
What Do I Do Next?
If you believe you have grounds for a medical negligence claim due to a mismanaged or misdiagnosed heart attack, speak to one of our team today.
Our expertise will ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled to.