If you were relieved to hear that your recent heart attack symptoms were “just stress,” maybe you should ask for a second opinion. A recent study found that many patients who reported chest pain and shortness of breath to their primary care physicians were misdiagnosed with anxiety--particularly if they were female.
A part of the study, 230 medical professionals were given hypothetical case studies of two different patients: a 47-year-old male and a 56-year-old female, equally risk at for coronary heart disease (CHD) by age. Both had exhibited a range of CHD symptoms and risk factors, but half of each group indicated that they had recently experienced a major life stressor. Physicians then gave their diagnosis and treatment recommendations for each patient.
The results of the study are not encouraging for female heart patients:
- In cases where stress was noted in the patient’s chart, fewer women received CHD diagnoses (15% versus 56%), cardiologist referrals (30% versus 62%), and prescriptions of cardiac medication (13% versus 47%) than men with the same stressors.
- In cases where symptoms were presented without mention of stress, there was no longer any significant evidence of a gender bias.
- Men’s symptoms were identified as cardiac in origin whether or not stressors were present. However, female CHD symptoms were interpreted as a result of stress, even though the symptoms (chest tightness, shortness of breath and irregular heart rate) were identical.
The trusted Louisville medical malpractice attorneys at Gray and White know how serious a case of heart attack misdiagnosis can be. If a doctor contributed to the early death of a loved one, we can help. Call us today at 800.634.8767 or fill out the contact form on the top of this page to start your FREE consultation.