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How does a misdiagnosed heart attack lead to brain damage?

Chest pain can be scary, especially as you get older. Most people equate it with having a heart attack, and it is one of the possible signs, along with pain in the jaw and pain, numbness or tingling in the left arm. At least that's how Hollywood most often depicts a heart attack. However, other signs and symptoms such as vomiting, heavy sweating and shortness of breath, among other things, may also indicate heart attack.

The signs and symptoms may be even more elusive if the patient is a woman. If a doctor fails to pay close attention, order the appropriate testing and come to the correct diagnosis, you could be sent home and have a heart attack because an emergency room doctor, or even your family doctor, failed to properly diagnose you. You may survive, but you could experience damage to your heart -- or your brain.

What do heart attacks and brain damage have in common?

It's not necessarily what they have in common. It's how one leads to the other. When you have a heart attack, oxygenated blood fails to get to your brain. Without oxygen, your brain cells begin to die. If you go without oxygen to the brain for long enough, damage occurs. It only takes minutes for you to suffer from an anoxic brain injury after a heart attack.

The lack of oxygen to your brain causes a condition called stagnant anoxia, which means that your brain failed to receive an adequate amount of oxygen due to an internal condition such as a heart attack. You could end up suffering from the following lasting effects:

  • You may suffer from anomia, which means that you can't find the right words or use words out of context.
  • You may suffer short-term memory loss.
  • Your ability to process visual information may suffer.
  • The executive functions of your brain such as judgment, reasoning and information processing could diminish as well. This could cause you to become indecisive or impulsive.

It may not seem as though these issues are particularly troublesome, but if you can't remember instructions your boss just gave you a few minutes ago or can't understand those instructions, how can you perform your work duties? If you become impulsive or indecisive, how will you make decisions that affect your family? How can you effectively communicate if you can't remember the words to use in order to get your point across?

If your doctor failed to diagnose your heart attack

As you can see, the consequences of your doctor failing to diagnose your heart attack go well beyond any damage to your heart. Of course, your doctor did put your life in jeopardy since heart attacks can be fatal, but he or she also put you at risk for brain damage due to a lack of oxygen caused by a heart attack.

You deserve a certain standard of care from the medical professionals in charge of your care. If one of them fails you and you suffer serious harm as a result, you may be entitled to pursue compensation for the financial losses and other damages that result.

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