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Posted on 23rd May 2017

Heart Attack Misdiagnosis

Is also known as a myocardial infarction, occurs when the blood supply to a part of the heart stops. Most commonly this is due to a blood clot. When a blood clot enters the heart causing a heart attack, part of the muscle may be seriously damaged.

The symptoms of a heart attack can often mean it is misdiagnosed as indigestion, angina or even anxiety and flu.


It has been reported by the media that one in three heart attack cases are misdiagnosed and the symptoms differ between men and women mainly due to the size of coronary blood vessels. Every five minutes someone in the UK has a heart attack.

What is a heart attack

A heart attack is where the blood supply to the heart stops causing the heart, which is essentially a muscle, is starved of oxygen. The lack of oxygen causes all of part of the heart muscle to become irreversibly damaged.

What causes a heart attack

A Heart attack is generally caused by two conditions, coronary artery disease and Atherosclerosis.

Coronary artery disease is the blockage or narrowing of arteries caused by Atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is where fatty deposits and cholesterol builds up on the walls of the arteries supplying the heart. The build-up (also called plaque) reduces the flow of blood to the heart.


When is chest pain not a heart attack

When arteries a clogged with plaque, the blood flow is restricted but not completely cut off. When the flow of blood is restricted, the nutrients the heart needs to function is also restricted and that causes chest pain. This type of chest pain is called Angina.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack

The symptoms of a heart attack are various and they depend on whether you are a male of a female. If you experience any of the following and it lasts for several minutes, you should seek emergency treatment without further delay:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Sweating or a cold sweat
  • Light-headedness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness or anxiety
  • Angina (central chest pain)
  • Pain or discomfort in arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw or stomach

Women can also experience:

  • Light headaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Upper back and shoulder pain
  • Pain spreading into arms
  • Tiredness for days

What happens if I have had a heart attack

If you have suffered a heart attack, you will be set on a course of treatment. You will have tests such as an ECG (Electrocardiogram) to establish the extent of the damage to your heart. Your heart rate will also be monitored by a bed side machine linked to you by several leads and patches.


You may have blood taken. When the muscles of the heart are damaged, certain chemicals are released into your blood stream. By measuring the amount of the chemicals in your blood, specialists can determine when it happened and the size of the heart attack.

You may also have an Echocardiogram which tests how the heart is pumping and to see if any of the internals of your heart have been damages.

Once the tests have been performed, medical experts will put you on the treatment plan most appropriate for the damage sustained.

Are heart attacks often misdiagnosed

The British Heart Foundation state on their website that a third of heart attack patients are misdiagnosed. Their data comes from a study by The University of Leeds which analysed nine years’ worth of data covering 243 NHS Hospitals and around 600,000 heart attack cases.

What happens if my heart attack was misdiagnosed

If a heart attack was misdiagnosed initially, a delay in receiving appropriate treatment undoubtedly followed.

In legal terms, if a heart attack was misdiagnosed Solicitors have to prove that further injury occurred and that the further injury could have been avoided.

By way of a case study example:

Patient x and his wife went to A&E at their local hospital. The doctors failed to do any tests and sent patient x home with some antibiotics. Later that day patient x suffered another heart attack and died. Patient x’s wife may have grounds to make a compensation claim.


Patient x and his wife went to A&E at their local hospital. The doctors failed to do any tests and sent patient x home with some antibiotics. Later that day patient x felt unwell and went back to hospital where tests were done and his heart attack was diagnosed and treatment started, Patient x probably doesn’t have grounds to make a compensation claim because no further injury was sustained.

Further Information