New Jersey Atrial Fibrillation Malpractice Lawyers
Seeking Maximum Compensation for Victims of AFib Misdiagnosis, Failure to Diagnose, and Treatment Mistakes
One common heart condition affected by the multitude of lifestyle decisions and medical conditions that a person may acquire over a lifetime is atrial fibrillation, which can cause a range of symptoms and outcomes from slight discomfort to death. Known as AFib, the condition is characterized by arrhythmia or an erratic heartbeat. In certain instances, it can cause strokes and heart failure, as well as blood clots. About 12 million people in the United States will have AFib in the next ten years, and it is the leading condition involving an irregular heartbeat. More women experience the condition and its effects, as females typically outlive males and AFib worsens with age. People experience the condition differently, from feeling nothing at all, to feeling faint or nauseous. Regardless of the symptoms in a particular case, atrial fibrillation is a dangerous condition that must be immediately caught by a doctor, accurately diagnosed, and effectively treated.
Sadly, medical malpractice with heart arrhythmia is responsible for numerous complications and deaths each and every year. Those who suffer the effects of misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, and improper management or treatment of AFib are not alone, however. Pursuing compensation for losses caused by atrial fibrillation errors and other forms of malpractice is your legal right in New Jersey, and Fronzuto Law Group can help. Our team of attorneys has been successfully investigating and obtaining compensation on behalf of victims in cases like this for many years. Be sure to contact us at 973-435-4551 for a free consultation if you have questions about a potential claim for mistakes with AFib.
Basics of Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
In AFib, the heartbeat in the heart’s upper chambers flutters and beats unevenly. The beating in the upper chambers is not in sync with the other chambers, causing less effective heart functioning. A normal heart rate falls within the range of 60 beats per minute to 100 beats per minute, while a person with AFib has a heart rate of 100 beats per minute to 175 beats per minute. The fluttering or quivering beats are not strong enough to move blood through the heart’s ventricles, so blood pools in the heart. As such, the sufferer of this condition runs the risk of a clot releasing into the blood stream and clogging blood flow to the brain, leading to a stroke when oxygen and nutrient-deprive brain cells die off, or a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism, which is a clot that travels to the lungs. In fact, a person with AFib is five times more likely to suffer a stroke than an individual without it.
Risk Factors for Atrial Fibrillation
Whenever your doctor sees AFib symptoms, they should run tests to be on the safe side and identify it or rule it out. Of course, they must first spot the signs of irregular heartbeat and identify any of the risk factors that make you more prone to atrial fibrillation. First and foremost, aging increases AFib risks. As older adults age, AFib becomes riskier since high blood pressure is also an older age condition. You are more likely to have the condition if you are older, obese, stressed, and have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, a tobacco addiction, and drink alcohol. Those from European descent are more likely than others to experience it, and if you have it, you are likewise at higher risk for stroke. A stroke is diminished blood flow to other parts of the body due to clots or plaque blocking blood vessels. When blood is unable to reach the brain, a stroke can occur. Strokes can leave victims paralyzed and brain damaged, resulting in other complications such as loss of memory and speech.
Misdiagnosing AFib is Common
The condition may be constant or periodic and may feel like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, and chest pain. Unfortunately, these symptoms appear like so many other health conditions that come with aging or genetic defects and so may be misdiagnosed as something else. For example, tachycardia, an irregularly fast heartbeat, is one of many arrhythmias and may be a symptom of AFib. However, it is caused by infection, congenital disorders, and heart disease, among other underlying problems. Persistent anxiety and panic attacks are also at times confused for AFib because they may co-exist. Panic attacks often strike suddenly and cause shortness of breath, racing heart rate, dizziness, nausea, and other similar symptoms. Hyperthyroidism, coronary heart disease, heart valve and heart muscle disorders also cause heart rate increases and other symptoms that mirror those of atrial fibrillation. Misdiagnosing AFib as any of these other conditions can lead to the wrong treatment and ultimately, a delayed diagnosis of the real issue that could be life-threatening for the unsuspecting sufferer.
Physicians Often Miss the Signs of Atrial Fibrillation
Physicians must be sure that they are familiar with the individual’s accompanying conditions before diagnosing and treating AFib, since the condition itself may not present worrisome symptoms or it may be episodic, in which case the doctor may not catch it without an episode. A cardiologist is usually best prepared to recognize AFib. Cardiologists are heart doctors who treat ailments of the cardiovascular system. They diagnose, treat, and prevent heart diseases and disorders by performing diagnostic testing, examining patents, and prescribing medication, treatment, and management plans. They are also responsible for referring patients to other doctors who may treat concurrent or contributing conditions. As specialists, their training includes three years of internal medicine and one year of additional training in cardiology beyond the four years in medical school. These doctors deal with many patients who have multiple conditions contributing to heart disease and so, must have expertise in the other systems of the body.
However, recognizing the signs of atrial fibrillation is not simply the responsibility of specialized cardiologists. Primary care doctors with older patients should be on high alert for AFib, especially for those patients with other risk factors that contribute to developing the heart condition. Failing to carefully examine a patient’s history may lead to misdiagnosis. Likewise, failing to test or refer an elderly patient with AFib symptoms to a cardiologist may qualify as negligence causing delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis.
Improperly Treating or Managing AFib can Lead to Serious Complications
Negligent treatment may be another cause of unnecessary injury to a patient. AFib is typically treated with medication to regularize the heartbeat, blood thinners to prevent clots, surgery, and other medication or therapy to manage accompanying risk factors, like diabetes treatment, smoking cessation, or alcohol reduction. Blood thinners can also cause capillaries in the brain to burst, causing bleeding in the brain, so physicians must be wary about prescribing coumadin, warfarin, and other blood thinners, and carefully monitoring patients taking them. If a patient has a high risk of stroke, they will likely be on blood thinners. If not, doctors often prescribe daily aspirin. The problem occurs when a physician mistakenly prescribes aspirin instead of blood thinners, and a patient has a stroke. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), nearly half a million hospitalizations occur due to AFib annually, and about one-fourth of those incidences are fatal.
Patients in distress due to AFib may need to undergo cardioversion, which is a procedure to bring the heart rate back into the regular zone via medication or electric shock. Otherwise, the heart works extra hard, which can damage the organ and stress the entire body due to insufficient oxygen, thereby causing patients to become lightheaded or dizzy. They may pass out and a strained heart can lead to heart attack or stroke. Thus, when a person does not receive timely and appropriate treatment for AFib, they may suffer permanent damage or even die as a result.
Contact AFib Negligence Lawyers in NJ
The longer AFib is left untreated, the higher the risk of death or permanent injury to the patient. If a doctor did not timely diagnose your atrial fibrillation, a healthcare provider did not check your chart showing several risk factors for it, or hospital personnel did not treat your AFib until your heart was damaged, you may have a medical malpractice claim. New Jersey entitles victims who experience complications from mistakes and mismanagement of heart and other conditions to seek damages. After all, your medical costs and pain and suffering need not go unaccounted for. Contact the New Jersey law offices of Fronzuto Law Group to talk through what happened in your AFib case and the legal avenues that may be open to you. Free consultations with zero obligation are always just a phone call away by contacting 973-435-4551.