Failure to Diagnose Aortic Dissection or Cardiac Tamponade

South Carolina Medical Malpractice Attorneys

The South Carolina medical malpractice attorneys at Lofton & Lofton have extensive experience in cases involving medical complications arising from aortic dissection and cardiac tamponade. Since 1984, we have fought for the rights of personal injury victims throughout South Carolina. Our Charleston office provides dedicated legal service to injured patients, helping them recover the compensation they deserve.

Aortic Dissection

The aorta is a large, multi-layered vessel that exits the heart, transporting oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. The body depends on this blood for basic life functions, from breathing and moving to sensation and thought. In an aortic dissection, the aorta can be thought of as a high-pressure hose. When the blood flow is too strong, it rips the inner layer of the aortic vessel, allowing blood to flow through the tear. The rupture can continue along the length of the aorta, trapping more blood in the wrong layer of the vessel. As a result, not enough blood flows to the rest of the body. Precursors to and causes of of aortic dissection can involve:

  • Smoking
  • Heart murmur
  • Limited vision
  • Paralyzed limbs
  • Stroke, diabetes
  • Cholesterol level
  • Sharp chest pains
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Numbness in arms
  • Aortic calcification
  • Blood vessel growth
  • High/low blood pressure

Aortic dissections are commonly misdiagnosed because the patient presents the same symptoms he or she would with a heart attack. Although a heart attack is rare in aortic dissections, physicians often confuse the two. Improper diagnosis is deadly, however, because these emergencies require totally opposite treatments. Treating the dissection as an attack therefore exacerbates the injury and often leads to death. When the patient complains of the symptoms in the emergency room, doctors do not always order the correct tests or notice abnormalities in time. This is a breach of professional duty to the patient and makes health care providers vulnerable to malpractice claims. Untreated, the most common cause of death from aortic dissection is known as cardiac tamponade.

Cardiac Tamponade

Cardiac tamponade occurs when blood leaking from the aortic dissection spills into the pericardial sac, the fragile layer of fluid protecting the heart. This is particularly dangerous because rather than staying within the heart chambers, the blood instead exerts pressure on the outside of the heart, restricting its critical pumping. This compression prevents the heart from contracting to receive enough blood and from feeding blood to rest of body. Like aortic dissection, pericarditis and cardiac tamponade are often misdiagnosed because the symptoms can be similar to other illnesses, even the flu. Proper diagnosis may require:

  • Chest X-rays
  • Iodine contrast
  • Echocardiogram
  • CT scans or MRI
  • Angiogram, aortogram
  • Low D-dimer (blood test)
  • High-frequency ultrasound

Failure to diagnose an aortic dissection or treating it as a heart attack severely injures the patient. Left untreated, cardiac tamponade is often deadly. When cardiologists and radiologists neglect to perform certain tests, fail to recognize heart abnormalities, or mistreat the patient’s condition, causing further damage, injured patients and surviving family members may seek relief in court. Possible damages include compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost income. Because medical malpractice claims are complex and difficult, experienced counsel is critical.

Recovering Compensation for Misdiagnosis

If you or a loved one suffered injury caused by failure to treat a heart problem, the South Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lofton & Lofton are here to help. For over 25 years, we have successfully handled all types of cases involving improper diagnosis or treatment. Although medical malpractice lawsuits involving emergency situations are tough, we present the strongest possible case in an effort to secure the greatest possible verdict or settlement for you. Call (843) 722-6319 for a consultation or contact us online.

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