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Diagnosis Failure Or Delay

Failure To Diagnose A Heart Attack

Despite being told that her chest pains were due to a recent bout of flu, Beth became increasingly worried about her symptoms. Eventually, some 36 hours after having been seen by a paramedic, she decided to attend her local Accident and Emergency department. It soon became apparent that she had indeed suffered a heart attack, the severity of which could have been drastically reduced had a timely diagnosis been made.

After returning home from work one Friday afternoon, Beth began to experience chest pain that radiated up into her jaw and down her left arm. She immediately recognised these symptoms to be indicative of a heart attack, but decided to go to bed in the hope her discomfort would subside. By the early hours of the morning, however, the pain was getting increasingly worse, so her partner dialled 999 and asked for an ambulance.

An hour and a half later a Community First Responder arrived and put Beth on oxygen. Within a matter of minutes a paramedic was also at her bedside, and he listened while she explained her symptoms. These included pain in the chest, jaw and left arm, a tingling sensation in the back of her throat and nausea. Despite not having an ECG machine with him, the paramedic assured Beth that she was not having a heart attack, but was instead suffering the after-effects of a recent bout of flu. He suggested it was unnecessary to attend hospital.

With the paramedic's advice fresh in her mind, Beth went to work the following morning. However, she continued to feel extremely unwell, and by Sunday morning was experiencing severe chest pain. Desperate for some treatment she attended her nearest NHS Walk-In Centre where a doctor diagnosed indigestion or a peptic ulcer. Again this suggestion was made without the use of an ECG machine, as there was not one available. Apparently believing this to be unimportant, the medical professional gave Beth an injection to relieve the pain and sent her home.

But by the evening of the same day she felt like she was dying. Her partner returned from work and took Beth straight to the nearest A&E department where it was soon discovered she had had a heart attack. They attempted thrombolysis, a type of treatment that is very successful if provided immediately after an attack. Nevertheless, 36 hours had lapsed since Beth had suffered her heart attack and the damage to the heart muscle was extensive. The treatment consequently failed and she was transferred to a coronary care unit for further treatment.

After spending several weeks in hospital she was discharged home. Although she did in time regain her physical strength, she remained emotionally fraught. She found the whole experience extremely frightening, and was aware that earlier treatment would have prevented the heart muscle being so badly damaged.

Feeling angry and upset that both the paramedic and the NHS Walk-In Centre had failed to diagnose her heart attack, Beth contacted us to discuss whether she had been the victim of medical negligence. We suggested that an ECG should have been performed on both occasions, as this would have ensured a correct diagnosis was made. The failure to do so amounted to medical negligence (on both counts).

We helped Beth make a medical negligence claim and she received over £20,000 compensation.

(Details which might identify our client have been changed.)

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