Florida – Family Medicine – Recurrent Chest Pain Diagnosed As Esophageal Spasm

On 8/27/2012 a 47-year-old female presented with complaints of hypertension, possible hyperlipidemia, and pain in her foot.  A family practitioner assessed the patient and diagnosed her with poor control of her hypertension and reinforced medical advice for the patient to increase her lisinopril.  Additionally, the family practitioner waited for the results of the previous laboratory work and recommended conservative management and stretching for the foot and ankle.

On 4/1/2013, the patient again presented to the family practitioner to address difficulties with concurrent chest pain.  The patient stated the chest pains were very severe and “stopped her in her tracks at times.”  The patient stated that she felt she was having a heart attack, although she reportedly realized that that was not the case.  The family practitioner deemed the chest pain was likely an esophageal spasm, for which he prescribed the patient Librax (chlordiazepoxide/clidinium) and recommended that she see a gastroenterologist for an endoscopy if the medication failed to provide relief.  The family practitioner also assessed the patient for hypertension and instructed the patient to stop taking hydrochlorothiazide.  The family practitioner provided the patient with a trial of Dyrenium (triamterene).

On 4/12/2013, the patient complained of chest pain and suffered a cardiac arrest.  Upon EMS arrival, the patient was unstable and unresponsive.  The patient was transported to a hospital where she was later pronounced deceased.

The Board judged the family practitioners conduct to be below the minimal standard of competence given that he failed to conduct an adequate history, which included a risk factor assessment for a patient complaining of chest pain, to order or perform an EKG on a patient complaining of chest pain, and send a patient complaining of chest pain to an emergency room or an expedited outpatient facility for a chest pain evaluation.

The Board ordered that the family practitioner pay a fine of $5,000 against his license and pay reimbursement costs for a minimum of $2,122.00 and not to exceed $4,122.00.  The Board also ordered that the family practitioner complete ten hours of continuing medical education in diagnosis in cardiology and five hours of continuing medical education in “Risk Management.”

State: Florida


Date: November 2017


Specialty: Family Medicine


Symptom: Chest Pain, Extremity Pain


Diagnosis: Cardiovascular Disease


Medical Error: Diagnostic error, Failure to examine or evaluate patient properly, Failure to order appropriate diagnostic test, Referral failure to hospital or specialist


Significant Outcome: Death


Case Rating: 3


Link to Original Case File: Download PDF



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