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Failure to Diagnose Heart Arrhythmia

Medical Malpractice Lawyers Serving Ocala

Heart arrhythmias happen if electrical impulses that coordinate heartbeats are off, such that your heart beats too slow, fast, or irregularly. Symptoms of arrhythmia vary, but can include racing heartbeat, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating, fainting, and altered heart beat. The alteration can involve a racing heart, which is called tachycardia; a fluttering in the chest; or a slowed heartbeat known as bradycardia. Some heart arrhythmias are life threatening. If a doctor failed to diagnose a heart arrhythmia and you were harmed or lost a loved one as a result, you may have a claim for negligence, and a skilled Ocala medical malpractice lawyer can help you assert your rights.

What is a Heart Arrhythmia?

Arrhythmias do not always cause symptoms. However, if you do experience fainting, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and other possible signs of arrhythmia, you should seek out urgent medical attention. Certain arrhythmias, such as ventricular fibrillation, are fatal. This type of arrhythmia happens if the heart beats rapidly and erratically, such that the chambers are not pumping blood properly so that vital organs are not supplied with blood. If you have ventricular fibrillation, you'll collapse in seconds and may be left not breathing or without a pulse.

Failure to Diagnose a Heart Arrhythmia

In order to diagnose a heart arrhythmia, doctors review a patient's symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. Conditions that could trigger an arrhythmia include heart disease or thyroid problems. A doctor may be listening for history or symptoms that need testing and treatment. Testing for arrhythmia may include the use of a stress test, an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram, an event monitor, a holter monitor, a tilt table test, an implantable loop recorder, and electrophysiological testing and mapping.

These tests work in different ways. During an electrocardiogram, sensors are attached to your chest to determine your heart's electrical activity. During electrophysiological testing and mapping, doctors will thread catheters with electrodes through your blood vessels to different places with your heart to make a map of electrical impulses.

If heart arrhythmia is diagnosed, it may be treated. For example, bradycardia might be treated with a pacemaker, which is implanted near a patient's collarbone and sends electrical impulses that stimulate the heart to beat more steadily. For another example, if there is a tachycardia, the treatment might be vagal maneuvers that would stop an arrhythmia starting above the lower half of the heart. These could involve holding one's breath or coughing. Sometimes medication can be taken to restore normal heart rhythms. For example, blood thinners can prevent blood clots. In other cases, surgery may be recommended.

Proving Medical Malpractice

In order to establish that your doctor's failure to diagnose a heart arrhythmia constitutes medical malpractice, you will need to show: (1) a doctor-patient relationship, (2) the defendant's actions in failing to diagnose heart arrhythmia fell below the professional standard of care, (3) causation, and (4) damages. A basic physical exam of a patient involving use of a stethoscope may reveal a heart arrhythmia. Generally, if the heart is not behaving normally, doctors will try to investigate heart rate and blood pressure. If an irregularity shows up during the investigation, most doctors would conduct further exams. However, sometimes doctors misinterpret data or fail to order further tests. There may be mistakes made in the ER due to time pressure and triage decisions.

The sooner there is a diagnosis, the sooner you can get treated. If an arrhythmia isn't caught, the failure to diagnose could result in disability, additional medical expenses, lost income, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and lost enjoyment of life. These economic and noneconomic losses may be recovered as compensatory damages. If a loved one dies due to failure to diagnose a heart arrhythmia, you may be able to recover wrongful death damages.

Consult a Skillful Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Ocala

At the Dean Law Firm, our experienced attorneys have compassion for those injured due a doctor's failure to diagnose heart arrhythmia, heart attack, or other condition. If you suffered injuries at the hands of a health care provider in Ocala, we can help you determine what your legal rights and options may be. We represent patients and their families throughout Florida, including in Crystal River and The Villages, as well as Marion, Sumter, Lake, Levy and Citrus Counties. Call us at 352-387-8700 or contact us through our online form.