A study by University of Leeds found that almost a third of patients in England and Wales are being given the wrong initial diagnosis after a heart attack.

The study found that women in particular were 50% more likely than men to have an initial diagnosis different from their final diagnosis.

NHS England said it was working to improve the diagnosis of heart attacks.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is urging people to be aware of the symptoms of a heart attack.

The study looked at the UK national heart attack register and was carried out between April 2004 and March 2013. It involved 243 NHS hospitals in England and Wales which cared for patients aged between 18 to 100 when they were admitted. Researchers found that 198,534 patients were initially misdiagnosed.

Up to 28,000 women die from heart attacks each year in the UK, according to the BHF, and there are approximately 275,000 female heart attack survivors in the UK.

A patient from Bolton, had an ankle operation which resulted in a blood clot which led to a heart attack.  She has spoken out about the need for women in particular to be made more aware of the differing symptoms of a heart attack. “The symptoms are not falling to the floor and clutching your chest, they are very different,” she said. “At first the feeling was a real tightness and a crumbling of my ribcage – it was as if I had a small child sitting on me – a child that just would not move. There was such a heavy weight. “As the actual symptoms progressed it actually turned into a burning. It was as if a burning cannon ball had actually been pushed through me and I could feel a huge hole burning right through from my front to my back.”

Doctors initially said her symptoms were a result of the operation and told her to take paracetamol, she said.

Researcher Dr Chris Gale said: “We need to work harder to shift the perception that heart attacks only affect a certain type of person. Typically, when we think of a person with a heart attack, we envisage a middle aged man who is overweight, has diabetes and smokes….”

“This is not always the case – heart attacks affect the wider spectrum of the population – including women.”

“We are working to increase awareness of signs and symptoms of heart attack amongst both the public and healthcare professionals as this will help speed up diagnosis.”

A prompt and correct diagnosis by medical professionals can ensure that patients receive proper treatment, medication and support.

How can we help?

At Ringrose Law our medical negligence team deal with claims arising from misdiagnosis, incorrect diagnosis and delays in diagnosis. Contact us on 01522 561 020 or call in at one of our offices for more information, offices in Lincoln, Boston, Spalding, Sleaford, Grantham and Newark.


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