Can a Stroke Misdiagnosis be Medical Malpractice?

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Patients depend on medical professionals to diagnose and treat medical conditions. One of the most devastating medical conditions can be a stroke. Under most circumstances, strokes present with hallmark signs and symptoms which makes their diagnosis relatively routine, but sometimes, even the most qualified or experienced medical professionals can fail to diagnose strokes that present uncharacteristically. 

Undiagnosed strokes can lead to severe injuries that have devastating, life-altering effects on the patient. If you or a loved one has suffered a stroke that the provider failed to diagnose, and it led to devastating results, you may be able to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against the liable party.  

The American Stroke Association reports that someone dies in the U.S. every four minutes because of a stroke. In addition to leading to 129,000 annual deaths, stroke is the leading cause of disability. Strokes can lead to speech or vision loss, paralysis, cognitive deficits, emotional difficulties, and memory issues, as well as other neurological problems. If a stroke is caught in time, medication can often be administered to lessen the damage or to stop it. 

Failure to promptly address a stroke promptly can lead to significantly worsened outcomes and permanent (and sometimes catastrophic) damage. 

Misdiagnosing A Stroke 

Unfortunately, strokes are frequently misdiagnosed because other medical issues can have the same or similar symptoms. Often, healthcare providers only think elderly patients can suffer a stroke. While statistically correct, younger individuals can and do present with strokes from time to time, and these strokes must be managed in the same way that strokes in the elderly must be managed. 

Whether in an elderly or a younger patient, a stroke misdiagnosis can result from a medical professional not investing time and effort to evaluate the patient properly. This could be failing to perform the correct lab tests, a comprehensive physical exam, or failing to order the correct imaging studies, which can lead to overlooking this potentially fatal condition. Healthcare providers who do not diagnose a stroke can be held liable for medical malpractice. 

The Definition Of A Stroke

When the blood supply to a portion of the brain is reduced significantly or interrupted, a stroke occurs. Blood clots often cause strokes, killing brain cells within a few minutes of the initial oxygen deprivation. Brain tissue not receiving oxygenated blood could die within hours, and as the brain tissue dies, the functioning of the brain can diminish beyond the point of recovery. About 80 percent of strokes are ischemic strokes, caused by blood vessels that supply oxygen to the brain being blocked. Other types of strokes include embolic strokes, venous strokes, and hemorrhagic strokes. 

Symptoms of strokes can include sudden vision difficulties, sudden severe headache, sudden weakness or numbness – especially on one side of the body, or sudden confusion, understanding, and difficulty speaking. A stroke is a medical emergency requiring immediate care to reduce complications and help stop or prevent damage to the brain. 

How Can Strokes Be Misdiagnosed?

If a stroke is suspected, an urgent care facility or emergency room should be used for immediate care. A healthcare provider must act promptly to be effective. The doctor must effectively evaluate the patient and rule out the most critical conditions first. Several conditions may have similar symptoms, such as seizure disorders, migraines, or abnormal blood sugar levels.

The physician must review the patient’s medical history, as well as the patient’s prescribed medications and risk factors. The provider must promptly order neurological testing and inquire about the patient’s symptoms and the onset of those symptoms. Tests to effectively diagnose strokes include CT scans, MRIs, blood tests, and more. A Johns Hopkins University study has revealed that tens of thousands of Americans have stroke symptoms that are overlooked by doctors every year.  

If you or a loved one has suffered devastating injuries because of a stroke that a doctor did not properly diagnose, you should speak with a medical malpractice attorney. When it comes to medical malpractice in Los Angeles, call the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., for a free case review. 

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