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Medical Malpractice

Stress Testing and Medical Malpractice

April 30, 2024

Stress testing is used to assess how well the heart functions while under stress. It usually involves having the patient walk or run on a treadmill in order to achieve a certain heart rate in order to identify potential heart problems. As the test begins, the patient will walk at an easy pace for a warm-up but will then be required to walk or run at a faster pace and steeper incline. The intensity of the test will depend upon the patient’s fitness and abilities as the focus is only on achieving a specific heart rate rather than meeting a target speed or duration.

Because stress testing is commonly used with cardiology patients, there is always a risk that something could go wrong. If you suffered harm during a stress test, you may be entitled to compensation and should reach out to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer

Failure to Properly Screen

Some patients are not healthy enough to undergo stress testing. Other patients may have underlying health conditions that increase their risk of complications during the test. Doctors should carefully review a patient’s medical records before ordering a stress test to ensure it is safe for their patients. 

Most stress tests are ordered in advance and it may be days or weeks before the test is conducted. Because their condition can deteriorate rapidly, healthcare providers should also make sure that patients are healthy enough on the day of the test. Failure to screen beforehand or on the day of can cause a patient to suffer a heart attack or have some other medical event that could have been avoided. 

Inadequate Monitoring During Testing

Stress tests are often administered by nurses or other medical staff, who may have many competing responsibilities. As a result, they may not be paying full attention to the patient’s heart rate and other vital signs during the test. They may also miss signs such as chest pains or arrhythmia. As a result, they may be unable to stop the test in time to avoid serious health problems such as a stroke or heart attack. 

Negligent Test Administration

Stress tests should be carefully administered. Failure to properly calibrate the treadmill or other equipment could result in harm to the patient if it causes overexertion. Some stress tests require the administration of certain pharmacological agents that can cause serious harm if the wrong dose is administered. 

Unsafe Testing Conditions

Many cardiology patients have mobility or balance issues. As a result, it is critical that the treadmill and any other equipment is safe for use by someone who is in poor health and under exertion. The treadmill should be in good working order with no mechanical issues. The testing space should be free from any tripping hazards and the floor should be dry. Precautions should be taken if the patient’s sweat falls onto the floor. Personnel should be on hand to help the patient if they become dizzy or unsteady on their feet. 

Misinterpretation of Results

Stress test results must be read and interpreted by a trained medical professional, just as with any other test. Unfortunately, mistakes can occur where signs are missed and the results are misinterpreted, leading to a misdiagnosis. Failure to exercise due care in reading and interpreting test results can give rise to a medical malpractice claim. 

Lack of Follow-Up

Another problem that can occur with stress testing is that no action is taken following the test even though abnormalities or other issues were noted. At a minimum, a follow-up appointment with the doctor should be promptly scheduled. Other cases may require adjustment to the patient’s medications or further procedures. Otherwise, the patient is at risk of suffering a serious cardiac event. 

Who Is Liable?

Determining liability can be difficult in medical malpractice cases that arise from stress testing. In some cases, the test is conducted by an independent facility that is not connected with your doctor. In other cases, the stress test may be conducted on-site. Who is liable will also depend upon where the negligence occurred. 

Contact Ragain & Clark if You Have Been Harmed as a Result of Stress Testing

At Ragain and Clark, we help people across Montana and Wyoming get fair compensation when they have been harmed as a result of medical malpractice. If you or someone you know suffered harm in connection with stress testing, give us a call at 406-651-8888 (Billings) or 307-388-6400 (Worland) or send us an email to schedule a free consultation.

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