According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 795,000 people suffer a stroke each year. They are the third leading cause of death in the United States, with someone suffering a stroke every 40 seconds, according to statistics. Strokes are also the leading cause of long-term disability. The long-term (and often severe) consequences of suffering a stroke are often the result of a misdiagnosis. Learn more about the warning signs of a stroke, how it can be misdiagnosed and how to file medical malpractice claim below.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when a blockage in the brain prevents blood flow. This means that your brain is deprived of necessary oxygen and nutrients, which can cause brain cells to die within minutes. There are three different types of strokes – an ischemic stroke, Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), and hemorrhagic stroke. A Transient Ischemic Attack is commonly referred to as a “mini-stroke.” These “mini-strokes” typically only last a few minutes, with the blood flow to the brain being blocked for only a couple of minutes. While significantly less damaging than the other two types of stroke, a TIA is often a warning sign for future strokes and must be reported to your physician. When a TIA is properly treated, it can significantly reduce an individual’s chances of having a stroke later on.
An ischemic stroke is the most common type, affecting more than 80% of all stroke victims. This type of stroke is usually the result of a blood clot. A hemorrhagic stroke, on the other hand, commonly occurs when an artery in the brain bursts, leaking blood into the brain. While a stroke in whatever form is a very serious medical condition that needs immediate medical attention, a hemorrhagic stroke is extremely life threatening. Death can occur within two days after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke.
Both types of strokes often share similar warning signs. In most cases, the following symptoms are commonly experienced:
- Face drooping
- Slurred speech
- Double or blurred vision
- Dizziness or loss of coordination
- Sudden headache with no known cause
- Sudden numbness affecting the face, arms or legs on one side of the body
There are some slight differences, however, between men and women. Women more commonly report the following symptoms associated with a stroke:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Hallucinations or seizures
It’s important to remember that just because these symptoms are more commonly reported by women doesn’t mean they don’t affect men. Any of the above symptoms may be a warning sign of a stroke and should receive immediate medical attention.
Oftentimes, people associate a stroke with the older population. While the risk of stroke does increase with age, it’s important to remember that they can affect anyone at any time.
How Are Strokes Misdiagnosed?
Strokes can happen gradually. As a result, some symptoms such as the sudden onset of a headache or numbness in one area of the body may be mistaken for something else. Certain warning signs of a stroke may also be mistaken for other medical conditions such as migraine headaches, inner-ear infections, acute glaucoma, Bell’s Palsy, brain tumors, seizures and in cases of dizziness or weakness, be misdiagnosed as the common flu.
Despite these similarities, though, if a patient is presenting any of the above symptoms, a doctor can order a cat scan to rule out a stroke. CT scans are often the first step in diagnosing a stroke because they can determine whether or not there is bleeding in the brain or damaged brain cells. Your physician may also order other diagnostic tests such as as an MRI, CTA, EKG, carotid ultrasound and even blood tests. Doctors can also perform physical tests on patients to determine whether or not they are having difficulty walking, speaking or seeing. Doctors can also conduct a neurological exam, which will check your coordination. These tests often include performing simple tasks and measuring a patient’s reflexes. If a patient has an ischemic stroke caused by a clot, “clot busting drugs,” like tPA can be administered to decrease the severity of the stroke.
As such, medical malpractice could occur at any one of these points. Most commonly, a stroke misdiagnosis may be the result of a radiological error, diagnostic or treatment error or negligence by failing to order and conduct certain tests or monitor a patient who exhibits certain risk factors of suffering a stroke such as high blood pressure, Diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. Or, if a doctor fails to timely administer tPA or perform other procedures once a stroke is diagnosed, that may be considered medical malpractice.
How is Medical Malpractice Determined?
Medical professionals have a standard of care they must uphold. When seeking medical care, patients have the right to expect treatment that is consistent with the standard of care. These standards are recognized as being the most acceptable and appropriate forms of treatment that a reasonable medical professional would perform under similar circumstances. Simply put, if your doctor didn’t provide the same level of care that a reasonable, prudent doctor would have provided, it may be considered negligence.
In order to move forward with a medical malpractice claim, it must be proven that the medical professional’s negligence caused the patient’s injuries or increased the risk of harm to the patient. This injury is one that would not have occurred had it not been for the doctor’s negligence. Once this is established, it must also be proven that that the patient suffered significant damages as a result of the injury. These damages can include everything from medical bills, lost wages, permanent disability, pain and suffering, future medical bills and more.
The longer a stroke goes untreated, the worse it can be. If a stroke is misdiagnosed and left untreated, the patient could suffer catastrophic brain injury, and cognitive impairment. Stroke victims can also suffer severe memory problems, have difficulty speaking, reading, writing and have difficulty maintaining their balance and coordination. Patients may also suffer from lifelong paralysis.
If you or someone you love suffered a stroke that was diagnosed too late or not treated quickly enough, you shouldn’t have to bear the financial burden of someone else’s negligent actions. Our attorneys at Matzus Law, LLC have decades of experience handling failure to diagnose illness claims. We are dedicated to holding hospitals and medical professionals responsible for their negligent actions in an effort to reduce the likelihood that they will reoccur. We offer free consultations, so if you have questions about the validity of your claim and want to find out how you can get started, give us a call. We’re available to help you and your family on the road to recovery.
Contact a Pittsburgh Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Stroke Misdiagnosis Case in Pennsylvania
Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Pittsburgh failure to diagnose stroke attorneys at Matzus Law, LLC are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, Butler, Cranberry, Greensburg and Washington. Call us today at (412) 206-5300 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 310 Grant Street, Suite 3210, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.