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If you suffered or lost a loved one as a result of an aortic dissection after a missed diagnosis, you may have a claim for medical malpractice.
Serving the Tampa and Plant City AreasAn aortic dissection is a medical emergency. Aortic dissections frequently require surgery, and with timely surgery, research suggests that patients with severe dissections have an 80 percent rate of survival. Following an aortic dissection, the key to preventing death and other serious complications is to receive medical treatment as soon as possible. Tragically, many patients suffer and lose their lives because their healthcare providers fail to provide an accurate diagnosis. With immediate medical attention required, it is imperative that patients suffering from an aortic dissection receive a correct and timely diagnosis. If you or a loved one received a misdiagnosis or your healthcare provider failed to diagnose an aortic dissection, you could have a claim for compensation based on medical negligence.
About Aortic DissectionsAn aortic dissection occurs when there is a tear in the inner layer of the aorta, which is the major artery carrying blood out of the heart. As the tear expands, blood escapes the aorta, causing its inner and middle layers to separate (dissect). When the condition worsens (which can happen very quickly), the outer layer of the aorta can rupture, leading to internal bleeding and loss of blood flow throughout the body. At this stage, an aortic dissection becomes extremely dangerous, with patients experiencing fatality rates as high as 80 percent. Aortic dissections are identified as either ascending (also called “type A”) or descending (“type B”). Ascending aortic dissections are generally considered the most dangerous, with the initial tear originating near the location where the aorta leaves the heart. There is a risk that the tear can propagate (expand) backward toward the heart, resulting in an immediate medical emergency. Descending aortic dissections occur further away from the heart, and propagate downward toward the blood vessels. While some type B aortic dissections can be treated with medication, both type A and type B dissections can require surgery. As published in the Texas Heart Institute Journal, “[w]ith few exceptions, the management of acute type A aortic dissection continues to be a prime example of life-saving, emergent open-heart surgery.” Among heart conditions, aortic dissections are relatively rare, with fewer than 200,000 cases reported in the United States per year. They are most common among men between the ages of 40 and 80. However, this does not excuse healthcare providers from overlooking or incorrectly ruling out the possibility of an aortic dissection during any patient’s medical diagnosis.
Warning Signs of Aortic DissectionAlmost invariably, the first sign of an aortic dissection is sudden, “ripping” chest pain. This pain is often severe enough to cause individuals to go to the emergency room. Other symptoms are similar to those presented with a variety of other medical conditions, including heart attacks, which is frequently cited as a reason for doctors’ inaccurate or missed diagnoses of aortic dissections. These symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty speaking
- Loss of consciousness
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
- Weak but rapid pulse
- Vision impairment
Risk Factors for Aortic DissectionAlthough the exact cause of aortic dissection remains unknown, medical experts have identified a number of general and specific risk factors. These include:
- Bicuspid aortic valve
- Blunt trauma to the chest (for example, in an auto accident)
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome, and other connective tissue disorders
- Heart surgery procedures
- High blood pressure
- Narrowing (coarctation) of the aorta
- Swelling of the blood vessels due to arteritis or other medical conditions
Doctors treating patients with these conditions who exhibit the symptoms listed above should be particularly sensitive to the possibility of an aortic dissection. However, even patients who do not present risk factors must be thoroughly evaluated to avoid the potentially fatal risks of an untreated aortic dissection.