Understanding the Signs of Strokes and Avoiding Misdiagnosis

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Strokes are the third leading cause of death throughout the United States and a leading cause of disability in adults. Strokes are defined as the sudden death of brain cells caused by the lack of oxygen, and occur when the brain’s blood flow is interrupted, resulting in abnormal brain function. A blockage in an artery to the brain or the rupture of an artery within the brain are the most common causes of strokes.

Failing to Notice the Symptoms of a Stroke

While strokes are sometimes challenging to diagnose, when a medical provider fails to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke while it is happening or fails to notice the signs of an impending stroke, that misdiagnosis may be grounds for a malpractice lawsuit. Physicians should carefully review the medical history of the patient. They should also conduct a thorough physical exam and sometimes, order a CT scan of the brain, or ultrasound or angiogram of the arteries to make the proper diagnosis of a stroke. When proper procedures are followed, strokes can often be diagnosed early, treated effectively, and the damages to the patient minimized.

A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is slightly different than a stroke and occurs when a patient has stroke-like symptoms, but the symptoms are only temporary. A TIA is a vital warning sign because they usually happen before there is an actual stroke. Typically, a TIA can last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. By promptly and accurately diagnosing and treating a TIA, patients can often undergo preemptive treatment and thereby avoid having a more severe or life-altering stroke.

Fast, effective treatment can stop and often reverse the progression of damage from a stroke. A failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis can result in catastrophic delays in treatment, or in some cases, no treatment at all. This allows the progression of preventable damage and permanent brain injuries or death to occur.

The Consequences of Stroke Misdiagnosis

Some of the more severe consequences of a misdiagnosed or undiagnosed stroke are as follows:

  • Brain injury
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Difficulty understanding words and speaking
  • Difficulty writing and reading
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain
  • Behavioral changes
  • Depression
  • Death

Seeking Immediate Treatment for a Stroke

Even if you’re not a typical candidate for stroke, or don’t have risk factors for a stroke, any signs or symptoms resembling a stroke should be taken seriously. You should seek medical treatment right away if you notice any of these symptoms.

Common Stroke Symptoms:

  • Weakness or tingling in a limb
  • Severe headaches
  • Sudden loss of strength in the legs
  • Difficulty finding words or speaking
  • Loss of balance, dizziness, or loss of coordination
  • Confusion
  • Loss of vision
  • Difficulty understanding speech
  • Changes in vision, such as double vision, blurriness, or dimness
  • Numbness, weakness, paralysis, or heaviness – often on one side of the body
  • Fainting

Sometimes the damages caused by a stroke can be prevented if you get prompt medical treatment. A competent healthcare professional can usually diagnose and treat a stroke or detect an imminent stroke and thereby work to prevent one from happening.  Often, this involves calling a “Code Stroke” team to assist in the diagnosis or management of a stroke patient.  Moreover, many specialized stroke centers across the country specialize in treating stroke patients.

Medical Professionals should be able to:

  • Administer the appropriate treatment promptly
  • Take a detailed patient history
  • Recognize the warning signs of a stroke, including TIAs
  • Conduct a thorough physical exam
  • Avoid an improper conclusion regarding the presentation of a stroke patient by adhering to established protocols for stroke diagnosis and treatment

Misdiagnosis and Medical Malpractice

If you believe you have been the victim of a stroke misdiagnosis which has led to serious injuries, you should consult with a medical malpractice attorney.

Some examples of the medical errors that result in stroke misdiagnosis include:

  • Laboratory mistakes
  • Improperly reading tests
  • Delaying the testing or treatment for a stroke
  • Failure to take a detailed medical history
  • Failure to properly consider a stroke in younger patients or those who seem healthy

Speak with a Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you have suffered from a stroke misdiagnosis, contact Los Angeles medical malpractice attorney Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., at (323) 641-4916 for a free case evaluation.

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