Heart disease is a leading cause of death in America, but it is often detectable and treatable. Symptoms can include chest pain and/or tightness, shortness of breath, pain in the left arm, sweating, nausea, and dizziness. Lawsuits involving cardiology problems can arise at several different points in time.
Sometimes heart disease manifests through signs and symptoms that should be apparent to a doctor, such as chest pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath on exertion. In this type of situation a doctor has the opportunity to detect and treat heart disease (also called atherosclerosis or “hardening of the arteries”) before it has the chance to cause a heart attack (myocardial infarction). It can then be treated through procedures such as angioplasty (“ballooning”) or a coronary artery bypass operation.
In other situations a person has had a heart attack and a doctor or hospital misdiagnosis it. Prompt laboratory testing and imaging studies can aid in the diagnosis, and then immediate treatment can save a person’s life.
A third type of situation arises from negligence during and after cardiac surgery. Surgical procedures often require a disruption of blood flow that can cause paralysis or death if not managed properly. After surgery doctors and nurses must monitor their patient very closely for signs that any of the affected blood vessels might leak (this can result in a condition called “cardiac tamponade” where blood and fluid surrounds the heart and prevents it from beating, or, in some cases, a person can bleed to death).
An example of a cardiology case handled by the attorneys at Kelley/Uustal is the case of a man in his thirties who needed a valve replacement operation. The surgeon operated on the man, and then never saw him again. He left the post-operative care to his nurse. Over the next few days in the hospital the sutures leaked, and the man bled into his chest. Each day the chest x-ray would show his lungs filling more and more with blood, and his laboratory values showed he was losing blood – but the doctor never saw him and the nurse did not figure it out. When he lost so much blood that he became disoriented and confused from lack of blood and oxygen to his brain, the nurse diagnosed a panic attack and gave him Xanax to relax him. He died hours later having bled to death over the course of days in a hospital. A confidential settlement was reached.