Doctors are more likely to make the wrong diagnosis when a woman is having a heart attack than when a man is having one. This can be very problematic for women who are seeking emergency treatment. They may go to the doctor and be told to go home and rest. But this could actually be advice that has fatal ramifications if they are having a heart attack and they are essentially sent home to deal with it on their own.
But why is it that doctors miss heart attacks in women more than they do in men? Part of the problem is the way the doctors look at heart attack symptoms and what they expect to see.
How are the symptoms taught?
Generally, when future doctors are taught about heart attack symptoms, they look for the four following things:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Pain moving down the left arm
- Excessive sweating
All of these symptoms may exist, but they are much more common in men than they are in women. A doctor who is only looking for these things may believe that a woman is not having a heart attack. The reality, however, is that she just has other symptoms.
So what should doctors look for? Women are much more likely to talk about back and jaw pain. They may also talk about dizziness, heartburn or neck pain. Many of them feel nauseated. They may eventually have chest pain or discomfort, but it’s not always going to be the first symptom that they notice. They may see these more “mild” symptoms first, but the doctor may not take them as seriously as they should.
In some cases, a doctor’s misdiagnosis can be fatal or have severe consequences. Family members need to be well aware of their legal options.