Strokes are a fairly common occurrence, particularly for those in high-risk categories.
Strokes are the single largest cause of adult disability in the United States, and the third highest cause of death.
Yet physicians routinely miss the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke. This failure to diagnose stroke is particularly dangerous, because unlike many conditions, for stroke victims every minute, or even every second, matters.
The prompt and proper diagnosis, and thus treatment, of a stroke can make the difference between life and death, or continued vitality and permanent disability. This is because once a stroke begins, a chain reaction occurs in the brain. Chemicals are released which kill brain cells, and brain injury begins almost immediately and gets progressively worse. If the stroke is diagnosed and treated promptly, this chain reaction can be stopped and even reversed.
If however, the diagnosis is missed and treatment is not administered promptly, severe damage and death can occur. Some of the most common consequences of a missed diagnosis of a stroke are:
- Additional strokes, often more severe
- Brain injury
- Permanent paralysis, on one or both sides
- Permanent loss of mobility
- Permanent memory loss
- Difficulty speaking and/or comprehending speech
- Problems reading and writing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Behavioral or personality changes or depression
But these consequences are often avoidable, if physicians and other emergency-room personnel paid attention to the classic symptoms of a stroke. Physicians who miss the following stroke symptoms may, in fact, be guilty of medical negligence:
- A weak or tingling arm or legislative
- Weakness, heaviness, numbness, or paralysis on one or both sides
- Sudden, severe headaches
- Vision loss or change (dimness, double vision, or blurriness)
- Balance or coordination problems
- Speaking or comprehension problems
Doctors should also be particularly attuned to warning signs of an impending stroke, and patient risk factors. These include transient ischemic attack, or TIA, also known as a mini-stroke. Mini-strokes generally resolve without treatment in 20 minutes or less, but recognition and treatment of a mini-stroke can prevent a full stroke from occurring in the future.
Delayed Stroke Diagnosis
There are a number of typical physician and emergency room errors which lead to a missed diagnosis of stroke. For example, problems in recording the initial intake interview with the patient, failure to determine or understand the patient’s medical history and risk factors, or the failure to consider the possibility of a stroke because the patient is young or otherwise healthy can all lead to a missed stroke diagnosis. More commonplace medical errors such as the failure to order the proper test, failure to read the results properly, or laboratory errors in processing the tests can also lead to a missed diagnosis.
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the common symptoms of a stroke, seek medical attention immediately, and be sure that your physician considers the possibility of stroke. And if your physician has missed the diagnosis of your stroke or that of a loved one, talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney, who can help you decide what course of action is best in your particular case.
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