The misdiagnosis of aortic dissection

On Behalf of | Jan 30, 2015 | Medical Malpractice |

Patients in Atlanta place a great deal of trust in the diagnostic capabilities of their doctors. Unfortunately, doctors, nurses, and other health care providers are only human, and thus subject to the same errors in judgment as everyone else. However, due to the impact that their decisions have on their patients’ lives, there may be little tolerance for doctor errors.

A patient’s care plan depends entirely on their diagnosis. Thus, an incorrect diagnosis could spell disaster. While the immediate impact of a misdiagnosis may not be felt with certain conditions, others may cause patients to quickly deteriorate due to the wrong course of treatment. Once such condition is an aortic dissection.

Aortic dissection occurs when a tear in the aortic wall allows the inner and middle layers of the aorta to separate. This can result in a rupture of the outside aortic wall, an event that is often fatal. According to the Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms of this condition include:

  •          Sudden onset of severe chest and back pain
  •          Loss of consciousness
  •          Uneven pulse
  •          Localized paralysis

Unfortunately, these symptoms mimic those of two other, much more common events: myocardial infarction (a heart attack) or a stroke. This places aortic dissection among the most misdiagnosed conditions in all of medicine. Research data shared by BiomedCentral.com shows that potential for misdiagnosis to be as high as 31 percent.

The standard of care calls for doctors to differentiate a dissection from an MI or stroke by the onset of sudden, radiating pain as opposed to chest heaviness or numbness. Electrocardiogram readings will also typically differ from the patterns present with an MI. A failure to distinguish a differential diagnosis in these cases could likely prove to be fatal.  

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