09 Aug Undiagnosed Acute Coronary Syndrome
What is acute coronary syndrome?
Acute coronary syndrome (ACS) is a term used by medical professionals to refer to heart disease in which blood flow to the heart is suddenly reduced or blocked. In layperson’s terms, this includes unstable angina and heart attacks.
Unstable angina occurs when poor blood flow through the blood vessels to the heart results in the heart receiving insufficient oxygen. Unstable angina can lead to a heart attack, in which blood flow to the heart is completely blocked.
Heart disease can be hard to detect
Acute coronary syndrome can remain undiagnosed because the symptoms of heart disease can be vague or resemble other conditions. It is essential to know the early signs that there may be a problem with your heart. Early detection enables treatment before acute coronary syndrome occurs, and prevention is much better than emergency treatment. The following signs are red flags that you may have an undiagnosed heart problem: discomfort or pressure in the chest, back or neck; irregular or ‘noticeable’ heartbeat; dizziness or fainting; unexplained fatigue; or swollen legs. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention.
ACS in the emergency room
Acute coronary syndrome is a significant contributor to emergency medical care and hospitalization in the US. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 28.2 million adults in the US with undiagnosed heart disease – that’s a sizable population which could, at any moment, end up in an emergency room.
In emergency medical treatment, diagnostic difficulties can result in over-diagnosis of ACS, leading to unnecessary hospitalization and increased costs. Conversely, misdiagnosis can result in patients with ACS being sent home. Patients with ACS who are not accurately diagnosed in the emergency room have nearly double the risk of death, compared with those who are admitted to the hospital. Medscape claims that up to 20 percent of the millions of dollars awarded in malpractice suits against emergency department practitioners is for missed ACS.
that up to 20 percent of the millions of dollars awarded in malpractice suits against emergency department practitioners is for missed ACS.
Those patients who in fact have ACS but are not correctly diagnosed are more likely to fall outside the high risk cohort, including younger and hypertensive patients. Women, also, are more likely to present with ‘atypical’ ACS symptoms and are therefore at greater risk of misdiagnosis.
To learn more about ACS, contact a professional at HeartShare Training.