Failure to Diagnose Stroke Can Lead to Loss of Life, Disabilities

Strokes kill approximately 150,000 Americans each year. Several hundred thousand more suffer disabilities due to a stroke. Most strokes occur when the artery that supplies blood to the brain is blocked, usually by blood clots. Blood clots can occur as a result of surgery, heart disorders including atrial fibrillation, and heredity. Without prompt treatment, the blockage prevents oxygenated blood from reaching the brain. An anoxic brain injury occurs when the brain does not receive oxygen. These brain injuries affect physical, intellectual, and emotional abilities as well as speech and communication. The longer the brain goes without oxygenated blood, the more severe the disabilities.

Symptoms of stroke can include:

  • Sudden weakness or paralysis, often in one side of the body
  • Sudden blurred vision or vision loss, affecting either one or both eyes
  • Sudden difficulty speaking and thinking – for example, an individual having a stroke may have trouble dialing 911
  • Sudden numbness or unusual sensations in the face and body
  • Sudden severe headache

Studies have shown that nearly two million neurons are lost for each minute the brain is without oxygen. Each minute is critical when it comes to treating a stroke, and physicians and emergency personnel need to treat these symptoms aggressively.

To further complicate the scenario, some strokes result from bleeding within the brain and must be treated differently. The wrong type of treatment can actually worsen the damage to the brain. In these cases, treatment involves finding and closing the site of any bleeding, as well as lowering the blood pressure.

Proper treatment for an ischemic stroke caused by blood clots is the administration of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). The tPA dissolves the clots and allows for free blood flow back to the brain. Other times, small devices are used to break up the clots into smaller pieces. The earlier these treatments are started, the more complete the recovery.

Medical Malpractice Involving Stroke Victims

Medical malpractice during a stroke can occur in a number of different ways. Often, physicians and emergency personnel overlook symptoms of stroke and fail to make a proper diagnosis quickly. The minutes and hours tick by, and the damage to the brain continues to worsen. Sometimes strokes are not recognized and are mistreated. For example, a patient presenting with a severe headache, vision difficulties, and confusion may be misdiagnosed with a migraine. In such cases, proper testing and care is delayed. The longer physicians wait to prescribe treatment with tPA when indicated, the more likely severe brain damage will result.

Malpractice may also occur when physicians fail to order anticoagulant therapy for individuals with atrial fibrillation. These individuals are more prone to develop dangerous blood clots, and are at risk for stroke. Failure to monitor blood pressure during surgery can also result in stroke. Anesthesiologists must monitor vital signs closely during surgery to prevent a stroke from occurring.

If you suffered from a stroke and did not receive prompt medical treatment or were misdiagnosed, or if you lost a loved one due to a stroke that was not properly treated, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney at the Angel Law Firm today either online or by phone at 503-862-8666.