Coronary disease misdiagnosed as tennis elbow

During the Christmas holidays Mrs A developed pain going down her left arm and pain from her right ear travelling down into her jaw, neck and top of her chest.  The pains would come and go in waves and would wake her from her sleep so when things did not resolve after a few days she attended a Walk in centre to see a GP.

The GP carried out an examination and diagnosed her as suffering from gastro-oesophageal reflux due to over indulgence in the festive period and tennis elbow for which she should take Paracetamol.

Mrs A’s symptoms continued and she began to feel worse.  She planned to make an appointment at her own GP practice when it re-opened but she was not afforded this opportunity and suffered a cardiac arrest at home in the meantime.  Her collapse was witnessed by her youngest child whose screams alerted Mrs A’s husband.  A 999 call was made and Mr A performed CPR until the Paramedics arrived.  Mrs A was taken to hospital but died a few days later.

Mr A approached us to investigate the standard of care that his wife had received from the GP who had seen his wife.  With the assistance of an independent GP expert witness and an independent expert witness in Cardiology we were able to establish that the GP had failed in his duty of care to Mrs A in not identifying that her symptoms could have a cardiac cause and to refer her urgently to hospital for investigations.  We were able to say that on the balance of probabilities, the results of these investigations would have been abnormal and lead to Mrs A being commenced on an acute coronary syndrome pathway including medication and stenting of blocked arteries.

With this treatment, she would have avoided the cardiac arrest and importantly she would have survived and lived to an old age.

Solicitors for the GP initially admitted breach of duty but denied that that the failure to refer Mrs A to hospital had made any difference to the outcome.  Formal Court proceedings then had to be started and the Defendants quickly made a full admission of liability for Mrs A’s death.

Mrs A had been the primary carer for her children while her husband worked and as a result the majority of the compensation claimed was for the loss of care and services Mrs A had provided to her family.  A 6 figure settlement was agreed between the parties and was  approved by the Court.

Acute coronary syndrome can be misdiagnosed as the symptoms, particularly in women, can mimic other conditions and can be atypical.  The consequences of failing to pick up on early signs can be catastrophic and as illustrated in this case, it can be fatal.  Early diagnosis and treatment is essential.

If you have suffered as a result of a missed or delayed diagnosis, we would be happy to discuss this further with you.

Ashleigh Holt – February 2019