Stroke Misdiagnosis

In the United States, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a major cause of physical disabilities for adults. Almost 800,000 Americans suffer from a stroke each year. Having a stroke can be a terrifying experience that requires immediate medical action. The rate of success in treating stroke victims relies heavily on a rapid, correct diagnosis and appropriate emergency treatment. A stroke does not have to be a death sentence or cause permanent disability, but stroke misdiagnosis can cause permanent, life-changing damages and can even lead to death.

What Is A Stroke?

A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, occurs when there is an interruption in blood supply to an area of the brain.

Types of Strokes:

  • The majority of strokes, 87 percent, are considered ischemic strokes. Ischemic strokes occur when patients suffer from an interrupted supply of blood to the brain, usually by a blood clot.
  • A second type of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when blood floods the brain as the result of a ruptured blood vessel. This amount of blood puts too much pressure on brain cells which damages them.
  • A third, less common, type of stroke is called a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) and is considered more of a “mini-stroke.” A TIA is different from the two more common types of stroke because blood flow to the brain is blocked for only a short period of time – usually less than five minutes. These types of mini-strokes are signs of a future major stroke and are still a medical emergency. Like ischemic strokes, TIAs are commonly caused by blood clots.

All types of strokes can range from mild to deadly with the symptoms varying greatly from patient to patient. However, patients in healthcare facilities that present signs of a stroke need a diagnosis and treatment immediately.

Stroke Symptoms

Patients can experience a variety of different symptoms when having a stroke. Some patients will experience many symptoms, while others will experience just a few. Some of the most common stroke symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness, weakness, tingling, or loss of movement in the arm, face, or leg – usually presenting on only one side of the body
  • Drooping face
  • Sudden changes in vision
  • Trouble speaking
  • Difficulty understanding simple statements or general confusion
  • Problems with balance or walking
  • A severe and sudden headache that is different from other headaches
  • Weakness in the arms

Even if they insist they are fine, individuals presenting any of these symptoms must receive a medical evaluation immediately. Call emergency services right away and note the time any of the symptoms first started appearing. This information will help medical emergency personnel determine what life-saving treatment to begin right away.

How Do Doctors Diagnose a Stroke?

Once a stroke victim arrives at the hospital, doctors should move very quickly to get an appropriate diagnosis. Doctors have quite a few tests they can use to diagnose a stroke, including physical exams, blood tests, and most importantly, imaging. Doctors often use high-resolution imaging or CT scans to diagnose a stroke. Additionally, doctors might rely on an MRI to make a diagnosis. By taking and analyzing x-rays, doctors can also observe whether or not bleeding in the brain has taken place. Diagnostic testing also helps determine whether the stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic, which is important to deciding the best treatment. Doctors may also look for causes of the stroke by ordering a blood test to test the victim’s blood sugar levels, liver and kidney tests, electrolyte test, and blood clot test.

How Is a Stroke Treated?

After a successful stroke diagnosis, multiple treatments can help save a stroke victim’s life. If the stroke is ischemic and the victim has arrived within three hours of the first stroke symptoms appearing, they may be given a thrombolytic medication to break up the blood clots that may be causing the stroke. This improves the chances the stroke victim will recover and have fewer disabilities. There are also surgical and endovascular procedures doctors can perform to stop the bleeding in the brain and save the brain tissue from damage.

How Do Doctors Misdiagnose a Stroke?

In some cases, a stroke diagnosis can be delayed or overlooked altogether as the symptoms of stroke may be mild or vague and are carelessly attributed to benign conditions like a migraine headache, the aging process, food poisoning, or even a spell that will pass on its own. It is vital for strokes to be treated as soon as possible to minimize the devastating effects they can have, which can include paralysis, brain damage, physical or mental disability, and even death.

If you or someone you love is potentially suffering from a stroke, tell the doctor your suspicions and ask that they run imaging tests to check for signs of a stroke. Getting appropriate fast treatment is vital to recovery and if the doctor overlooks any symptoms, you or your loved one may needlessly suffer the consequences.

Experienced Stroke Misdiagnosis Attorneys

A stroke misdiagnosis could mean the difference between life and death. If you or someone you love experienced a stroke misdiagnosis or believe your diagnosis was delayed and caused you additional physical damage, call the medical malpractice lawyers of Lopez McHugh LLP today. We can analyze your situation and explain your legal options. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.


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