Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States — by a long shot. So just because they treat so many patients, cardiologists can commit a great deal of medical malpractice. There are many ways this can happen, but some of the most common problems in cardiology treatment that can lead to malpractice events include:
- Angioplasty mistreatment. See our web page devoted to that.
- Heart attack misdiagnosis. Usually this is a problem with non-specialists like family medicine doctors or internal medicine physicians. However, sometimes cardiologists can misread the electrocardiograms that they take to look for the telltale signs of death or injury to the heart muscle, which show up as changes in the electrical activity of the heart. See our website page on heart attack for more information.
- Overuse of heart imaging studies in patients without heart-related symptoms. This can occur with the newer CT coronary imaging studies, which are non-invasive but subject patients to a walloping dose of radiation (with significant risk of cancer, just from the radiation exposure, years later), or with the standard type of angiogram of the heart, which is done with catheter tubes.
The problem is that most of the time, angiograms on people without chest pain symptoms show nothing. Even when there are some symptoms, the angiogram is just as likely to turn up clean as a whistle, or with only minor narrowing, as it is to show serious disease.
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine of 400,000 patients found that the odds of finding operation-worthy heart disease in patients getting a first-time angiogram without any known heart disease was only four in ten — which means that the $2,500 procedure was wasted on six of every ten patients.
Now, you might think that the angiogram can still be worthwhile if it shows some blockages that can be cleaned out. But that’s true ONLY IF those blockages are causing symptoms. The usual technique to unblock arteries — with a balloon and a wire scaffolding (stent) to hold open the artery — has been shown to work to relieve symptoms of chest pain, but it does NOT extend life in symptom-free patients. In those patients, it’s thought that the heart has already learned how to deal with the blockage by shifting blood from another supply.
See our website page on angioplasty for more information.
Consult with an Experienced Malpractice Attorney
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