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Something doesn’t feel right. Your chest may feel tight and have trouble catching your breath. Suddenly, the pain spreads to your arms and body. These are common symptoms of a heart attack and a frequent reason for emergency room visits.

A 23-year study of emergency rooms in the United States showed that more medical malpractice claims included heart attack and chest pain than any other condition. Courts also awarded damages in medical malpractice claims involving heart attack and chest pain than any other condition.

Misdiagnoses were by far the most common error leading to malpractice claims. The study showed that one-third of claims of death were attributable to diagnosis errors. Heart attacks were the condition that most often led to a patient death claim. Chest pain and aortic aneurysm followed closely in second and third.

Why are heart issues so difficult to assess? Possible theories mentioned include improperly analyzing diagnostic tests, not asking the patient enough questions upon intake and concurrent symptoms that could be indicative of other conditions.

Preventing a misdiagnosis

Many arrive at the emergency room at a moment of crisis. With heart issues, symptoms can be present for weeks or cardiac arrest can occur suddenly. If your body is telling you that something is wrong, you may have time to get ahead of a serious cardiac episode.

Among the basic things you can do is to write down your symptoms and their frequency and when they began. This way you have a complete record of what you’re experiencing and can visit with your physician to discuss treatments.

Cardiac health is important, and issues of the heart are among the most difficult to diagnose for many reasons. While not every misdiagnosis is preventable, some may be. A good step is ensuring that your doctor has the necessary information they need to identify the cause of your symptoms.