Mandatory reporting of diagnostic errors: “Not the right time?”

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I can’t be 100% certain, but I’m betting my next squirt of nitro spray that the Emergency Department physician who misdiagnosed me with acid reflux and sent me home despite my textbook heart attack symptoms (central chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm) did NOT voluntarily report his diagnostic error to his supervisor or to anybody else after I was correctly diagnosed much later by a different emergency doc. Continue reading “Mandatory reporting of diagnostic errors: “Not the right time?””

“It’s not your heart. It’s just _____” (insert misdiagnosis)

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

It’s fair to say that you would not be reading these words had my heart attack not been misdiagnosed with a cheerful “You are in the right demographic for acid reflux!”  Had I been correctly diagnosed, admitted and appropriately treated during that first trip to the Emergency Department, I would likely never have started this blog in 2009. Nor would I be still writing years later about female heart patients being misdiagnosed in mid-heart attack.

We know that women continue to be under-diagnosed – and then under-treated even when appropriately diagnosed – compared to men presenting with cardiac symptoms.  In fact, as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, female heart patients in their 50s and younger are seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed than our male counterparts.(1)

You know your body. You KNOW when something is just not right. Even if, like the following women, you too are sent home, do not hesitate to return to Emergency or to your physician if symptoms worsen.

Here’s my latest round of true tales from women whose cardiovascular disease is still being missed.    Continue reading ““It’s not your heart. It’s just _____” (insert misdiagnosis)”

Cardiac gender bias: we need less TALK and more WALK

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

News flash! Yet another new cardiac study from yet another group of respected Montréal researchers has been published in yet another medical journal suggesting that (…wait for it!) women receive poorer care during a heart attack compared to our male counterparts.(1)

As my irreverent Mayo Clinic heart sister Laura Haywood-Cory (who survived a heart attack at age 40 caused by Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection) once observed in response to a 2011 Heart Sisters post:

“We really don’t need yet another study that basically comes down to: Sucks to be female. Better luck next life!’, do we?”

Well, Laura – apparently we do.  Because those studies just keep on coming.         . Continue reading “Cardiac gender bias: we need less TALK and more WALK”

Unconscious bias: why women don’t get the same care men do

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

To the surprise of absolutely no women who have ever been misdiagnosed in mid-heart attack as I was, Dr. Mary O’Connor of Mayo Clinic claims:

Women do not always receive the same medical care as men.”

Trouble is, Dr. O’Connor didn’t make this disturbing statement five years ago.  Continue reading “Unconscious bias: why women don’t get the same care men do”

When your doctor mislabels you as an “anxious female”

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Take it from me: the only thing worse than a heart attack is being misdiagnosed and sent home from hospital while you’re having it. And for women in particular, this is a tragically all-too-common reality.  Research on cardiac misdiagnoses reported in The New England Journal of Medicine(1), for example, looked at more than 10,000 heart patients (48% of them women) who had gone to their hospital Emergency Departments with chest pain or other significant heart attack symptoms. Women younger than 55 were SEVEN TIMES more likely to be misdiagnosed and turned away from the E.R. than their male counterparts.

The consequences of this reality for women were enormous: being sent home from the hospital in mid-heart attack doubled their chances of dying.

Some of the most popular cardiac misdiagnoses that heart attack survivors have told me about include physician guesses like indigestion, menopause, stress, gall bladder issues, exhaustion, pulled muscles, dehydration and more. But perhaps the most distressing misdiagnosis to trip from the lips of an Emergency Department physician is “anxiety”. This one single word is instantly both dismissive and embarrassing. And worse, to have the diagnosis of “anxious female” recorded permanently on a woman’s chart virtually guarantees a definitive psychiatric stereotype for all future medical visits.   Continue reading “When your doctor mislabels you as an “anxious female””