When a heart attack occurs, timely treatment can be the difference between a full recovery and long-lasting physical complications. Unfortunately, these life-threatening events go untreated far too often, even with today’s medical advancements. When a doctor fails to properly address a heart attack patient, they are not only placing the patient’s heart at risk, but they may also cause extensive damage to the patient’s brain.
What Happens within the Body During a Heart Attack
The heart is a muscle which needs a constant flow of oxygen rich blood to survive. To reach the heart, blood flows through the coronary arteries. These arteries may become blocked when cholesterol, plaque and other substances build up within their walls. These narrowed openings can impede blood flow to the heart.
When the flow is interrupted or stopped altogether, healthy heart tissue begins to die and becomes replaced with scar tissue which cannot move as the heart tries to pump blood to the rest of the body. With quick and proper treatment, damage to the heart’s tissue can be contained before it causes severe damage. But left untreated, the heart can stop working completely. As our experienced Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers understand, this often leads to death or long-term medical complications.
The Effects of a Heart Attack on the Brain
Like the heart, the brain also needs adequate oxygen in order to properly perform. When oxygen drops to inadequate levels, the cells of the brain begin to die. If the brain continues to go without oxygen, it can be permanently injured. This is called hypoxia or anoxia and it occurs when blood and oxygen doesn’t reach the brain cells.
According to a report by the National Institute of Health, heart failure is connected to the loss of cognitive functions within the brain, including:
- Memory loss. Heart attack victims often lose the ability to recall short term memories. The lack of oxygen to the brain disrupts the hippocampus, a part of the brain that learns and recalls new information.
- Loss of language abilities. After a heart attack, a person may find it difficult to adequately communicate their thoughts. They may not be able to remember common phrases or may use words out of context.
- Visual deficits. A heart attack patient may experience difficulty in processing objects they see in front of them. This is due to damage caused to the white matter of the brain during the heart attack.
The severity of the resulting brain injury greatly depends on the amount of time the brain goes without oxygen. Therefore, prevention or timely treatment of a heart attack is extremely important to the prevention of long term brain damage.
Legal Representation you can trust from Washington D.C. and Baltimore Lawyers
At Schochor and Staton, P.A., our medical malpractice lawyers offer the residents of Maryland and Washington D.C. comprehensive legal representation when physicians fail to provide proper and prompt treatment. If you believe that you or a loved one was injured by the negligence of a physician, contact our offices right away at 410-234-1000 or complete our contact form for a consultation.