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When heart attack is diagnosed quickly and treated properly the chances of survival, recovery, and even returning to a normal, healthy life are very high. Failure to diagnose heart attack or delayed diagnosis of heart attack can mean delayed treatment or no treatment at all. Patients with undiagnosed heart attacks are typically sent home from emergency rooms without treatment and often have another, more serious, heart attack within a few hours or a few days. When treatment is delayed, the chances of survival or healthy recovery drop steeply.

Heart Attack Symptoms

What were once considered atypical symptoms are now known to be quite common, especially among women. Although chest pain is a common symptom, doctors now know that many patients have heart attacks without experiencing pain. Doctors should never take these heart attack symptoms lightly, even when a patient is not complaining of pain:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Cold sweat
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Anxiety or an unexplainable feeling of impending doom
  • Indigestion symptoms
  • Feeling of tightness, pressure, or fullness in the chest
  • Pain that radiates through the shoulder, arm, or jaw
  • Chest pain

Heart Attack Diagnosis

When doctors or emergency room staff are made aware of symptoms of heart attack, there are some standard things that they should do to determine if a patient has had, is having or is about to have a heart attack. This is very basic. It is not like looking for a rare disease or condition. Heart attack diagnostic procedure includes:

  • Carefully reviewing the patient’s medical history for risk factors including the use of certain medications
  • Conducting a thorough physical examination
  • Electrocardiogram testing (ECG or EKG)
  • Blood tests to check levels of the enzymes tropan and Creatine phosphokinase (CPK)

Why Doctors Fail to Diagnose Heart Attack

Even with growing awareness of heart attacks in women and young people, doctors still fail to consider the chance of heart attack in patients that do not fit the typical heart attacks profile. Of course, other errors can also lead to failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis of heart attack. Heart attack misdiagnosis is often the result of:

  • Failure consider the possibility of heart attack in women, young people, or patients who appear healthy and physically fit
  • Incomplete or no review of a patient’s medical history and the medications they are taking or have taken
  • Failure to recognize and respond to the symptoms of heart attack
  • Failure to administer the proper tests
  • Misreading test results
  • Overreliance on EKG results
  • Mistaking symptoms for the symptoms of other health conditions, such as heartburn, pneumonia, or gallstones

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