Stroke is the third leading cause of death in this country and the leading cause of adult disability. A stroke involves a shortage of blood to the brain or bleeding in the brain, both causing brain cell death. The damage caused by a stroke can be minimized if the stroke is caught and treated quickly. Failure to diagnose and treat stroke allows brain cell death to continue, worsening the outcome and reducing the chances of survival.
More than 80% of strokes involve a lack of blood supply to the brain. This is called ischemic stroke, and occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain becomes clogged by a blood clot. The blood clot can clog the vessel where it forms, or can form elsewhere in the body, break loose and travel through the bloodstream until it reaches a vessel too small to pass through. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel rupture and spills blood into the brain. As the blood accumulates it compresses the brain tissue causing brain cell death.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a minor stroke that resolves on its own. Symptoms normally last only 10 to 20 minutes. TIA is often referred to as a mini-stroke, and can act as a warning sign of an impending, more serious stroke. Prompt diagnoses of TIA and proper treatment can prevent a more serious stroke from occurring.
The symptoms of all types of stroke are the same and include:
- Difficulty speaking or finding words
- Difficulty understanding speech
- Weakness, heaviness, numbness, or paralysis, usually on one side of the body
- Weakness or tingling in a limb
- Severe headache
- Loss of vision
- Change of vision such as dimness, blurriness, or double vision
- Dizziness, loss of balance, loss of coordination
- Sudden loss of strength in the legs
Quickly recognizing and treating a stroke will significantly reduce the damage and long-term disability or death. There are many reasons why doctors fail to diagnose strokes including:
- Failure to consider patient’s medical history
- Failure to order necessary tests
- Improper reading of tests
- Laboratory error
- Failure to consider stroke in younger patients
- Failure to consider stroke in patients that seem healthy
- Errors in recording intake interview
When doctors fail to recognize stroke symptoms they often send patients home without treatment or treat the patient for a non-existent condition. Administration of anti-clotting drugs and sometimes surgery are needed after a stroke, to prevent further damage. When TIA is unrecognized a more serious stroke usually follows. With proper diagnoses this is almost always preventable. Consequences of failure to diagnose stroke can include:
- Brain damage
- Paralysis, often on one side of the body
- Difficulty speaking, understanding words, reading and writing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of motor skills
- More severe stroke
- Behavioral changes
- Memory problems
Stroke survivors face long-term disability and lengthy and costly rehabilitation. Death and long-term disability can often be avoided or reduced by proper diagnoses and speedy treatment. The more time that passes the worse the damage will be, creating a more difficult, more expensive and less successful recovery.
If you or a loved one has been harmed or died due to failure to diagnose stroke you may be entitled to compensation. Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney today.
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