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Silent Heart Attacks More Common Than Previously Thought

A new study from Duke University Medical Center shows that silent heart attacks may occur more frequently than physicians thought.

A heart attack happens when a clot gets in the way of blood flow from a coronary artery to the heart. This may cause symptoms such as severe chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting and nausea.  Although many people think a heart attack is a painful event, there are some heart attacks that go entirely unnoticed.

Undiagnosed, or "silent," heart attacks affect nearly 200,000 people in the United States annually.  The risk factors for silent heart attacks are the same as for regular heart attacks, including smoking, diabetes, stress and family history.  As many as 40% to 60% of all heart attacks are unrecognized.

The study was done on 185 patients who had never had a diagnosed heart attack but were suspected of having coronary artery disease (CAD).  Researchers used a relatively new technique called delayed-enhancement cardiovascular magnetic resonance (DE-CMR) and followed up with the patients after about two years.

The researchers found that 35% of patients had evidence of a heart attack and that silent heart attacks without Q-waves were three times more common than those that had Q-waves. 

Also, patients with non-Q-wave silent heart attacks also had 11 times higher risk of death from any cause and a 17-fold risk of death from heart problems compared with patients without any heart damage.  Researchers noted that patients with non-Q-wave silent heart attacks were also generally older and were more likely to have diabetes.

Treatment for someone who has had a silent heart attack is usually the same as someone who goes to the hospital immediately after a heart attack. 

If you or someone you love suffered injury or death because of delay in the diagnosis or treatment of a heart attack, you should contact the lawyers at Berger & Lagnese for a free consultation.  The lawyers at Berger & Lagnese specialize in medical malpractice cases involving failure to diagnose and treat medical conditions such as heart attacks.