Strokes are not only the fourth-leading cause of death in the US, they also bring significant challenges to the lives they spare. According to the CDC, strokes are a leading cause of serious long-term disability, reducing mobility in more than half of survivors age 65 and over. Survivors may become disabled and unable to communicate with others, and no longer able to take care of daily needs. In this way, they may affect more than just their victims.
Due to advances in preventative healthcare, the stroke death rate in the US fell by 30 percent from 1995–2005. Doctors are now better equipped to identify risk factors and symptoms of a stroke, and establish proper treatment. When doctors fail to carry out this duty of care towards a patient and this negligence results in preventable harm, it may be sufficient grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Risk Factors of a Stroke
According to the CDC, some habits and conditions can make the risk of stroke higher, like:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
1 in 3 Americans fits one or more of these risk factors, raising their risk of stroke.
Blood clots stop blood flow to an area of the brain in ischemic strokes (left), whereas blood leaks into brain tissue in the case of hemorrhagic strokes (right). Source: Wikipedia
What Are the Warning Signs of a Stroke?
Nearly 1 in 4 strokes happen to people who previously had a stroke, but this increased risk profile may not be immediately obvious. Oftentimes these preliminary strokes are transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), “mini strokes” which can happen in a patient’s sleep and leave only slight or temporary impairment. However the risk of a massive stroke within 90 days of a TIA is as high as 17 percent, with the greatest risk in the week immediately following the TIA.
Other warning signs of a future stroke include:
- Memory issues
- Instances of paralysis
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty reading or writing
- Problems eating
- Behavior shifts
- Depression or anxiety
Diagnosing a Stroke
Proper care for patients who report or show signs of stroke risk should include diagnostic tests that determine whether the patient has had a stroke and how to proceed with treatment. This falls under the doctor’s duty of care, and is instrumental for the patient’s future prospects.
One of the advances in stroke treatment in the past decades is the widespread use of tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a “clot-busting” drug that breaks up the blood clots behind ischemic strokes, which account for 87 percent of total strokes. When a patient is diagnosed within 3 hours of suffering an ischemic stroke, they can receive tPA treatment — which increases their chances of recovering fully and leads to less disability than in those not given the drug.
In ischemic strokes, blood clots block blood flow to part of the brain, causing brain tissue death. Source: Wikipedia
Other ways that healthcare staff can be negligent include:
- Misinterpreting test results
- Failing to consult with specialists who can assist in treatment
- Failing to consider the patient’s medical history
- Failing to look closely at stroke risk factors in otherwise healthy patients
- Misdiagnosing a stroke as another illness
- Failing to provide a physical examination
The Consequences of Stroke Misdiagnosis
A stroke blocks oxygen to the brain, which makes every second of response time count — and any delay affect a patient’s future ability to move, speak or think. Other complications from misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a stroke include:
- Changes in behavior
- Loss of memory
- Cognitive deficits
- Trouble swallowing or speaking
- Severe brain damage
When to Consult with an Experienced Stroke Misdiagnosis Attorney
A misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis for stroke victims can have catastrophic consequences for their health and quality of life. The best course of action if you feel that such an error has caused harm to you or a loved one is to consult with skilled attorneys like those at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt as soon as possible. With 30 years of experience in medical malpractice, McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt is well suited to evaluate the situation and help determine if the injury suffered involved acts of medical negligence or professional malpractice.