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Heart attacks are often misdiagnosed in female patients

When you go to the hospital for any kind of emergency, you expect that it will be taken seriously. Mistakes happen, though, especially when bringing in patients who are going through emergency medical concerns.

One of the problems with emergency care is the potential for a misdiagnosis in the heat of the moment. A misdiagnosis of a non-life threatening condition may not be serious, but failing to diagnose something like a heart attack or aneurysm can result in a patient's death.

Women have a particularly difficult time having heart attacks identified. Why? They don't always present in a traditional manner.

What does a heart attack look like?

When people imagine a heart attack, they might envision a person clutching their chest or having pain down the left arm. That's not always the way a heart attack presents, though. Other possible symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • The feeling of having weight on the chest

According to a study from 2018, heart attacks kill approximately 1 in 4 women in the United States. Both patients and medical providers tend to miss the signs of heart attacks in women, especially when the symptoms are less common.

While around 90 percent of people who suffer a heart attack do suffer some chest discomfort, for example, not all do. In those cases, it's possible that the heart attack could be misdiagnosed as something less serious, like acid reflux.

When studying 2,009 women and 976 men between 18 and 55 years old, it was discovered that women were more likely to present with non-chest-pain symptoms and signs of a heart attack including palpitations, dizziness, nausea and stomach pain. In 53 percent of these cases, women said that their health care providers didn't think their symptoms were related to a heart condition.

The misdiagnosis of a heart attack can be fatal for some, leading to an overall higher risk of mortality for women, especially if they are young. Cardiac disease is the number one killer among women in the United States, so medical providers should be looking into the symptoms and determining what is truly wrong with the patient, not just assuming that women are less likely to have a heart attack or that their symptoms don't match up.

If you are misdiagnosed, you could suffer serious complications or death. If you survive a misdiagnosis, it's important to look into holding your medical provider in New Hampshire liable for your injuries.

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