A stroke can be a life-threatening medical condition. Even when a stroke is not fatal, it can still cause significant physical and cognitive disabilities that affect all areas of a person’s life. Unfortunately, strokes are not always diagnosed correctly, especially in young people. When it comes to stroke treatment, time is of the essence. A delay in diagnosis or a misdiagnosis will postpone appropriate treatment and may even be deadly.
What is a Stroke?
According to the American Heart Association, strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. There are two types of strokes including hemorrhagic and ischemic. Both types of strokes obstruct blood flow to the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke involves a ruptured blood vessel in the brain, which disrupts blood flow. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot in the brain blocks blood flow.
Mini strokes, which are called transient ischemic attacks (TIA), occur due to a temporary clot and tend to be less severe than other types of strokes. But an accurate diagnosis of a TIA is still critical since it can be a warning sign that a more serious stroke may occur in the future.
Symptoms of a stroke can vary widely depending on the area of the brain affected. But common symptoms include slurred speech, facial drooping and weakness on one side of the body. A headache, confusion and blurred vision can also occur.
Treatment is based on the type of stroke a person is having. That’s why it’s essential to differentiate between which type of stroke is occurring.
Stroke Misdiagnosis Higher in Adults Under 45
Strokes are more common in the elderly. But they also occur in younger adults. It’s estimated that about ten percent of the strokes that occur in the United States happen to adults under the age of 45, and that number may be increasing.
The reason for the increase in strokes in younger people may be a combination of factors. Increased incidences of obesity and hypertension in young and middle age adults may be considerations.
Strokes in younger people may be misdiagnosed more frequently than in older adults. According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University, emergency room physicians may be 30 percent more likely to misdiagnose or overlook stroke symptoms in adults under age 45. Symptoms of a stroke in younger adults may be attributed to everything from migraines to substance abuse.
In addition to younger adults, people with mild stroke symptoms and those with severe symptoms are often at the highest risk of being misdiagnosed. That’s because, in both mild and severe strokes, symptoms also mimic other conditions.
Consequences of Misdiagnosis of a Stroke
In some instances, a segment of brain tissue may suffer irreversible damage due to a stroke. But there is also tissue that may be damaged due to decreased blood flow, but the function may be restored. This area of the brain that may have reversible damage is the target of interventions.
A rapid, accurate diagnosis is based on medical history, clinical exam and a competent assessment of imaging scans. Quick diagnosis of a stroke is needed for a couple of reasons.
The first goal of treatment is to restore blood flow to the brain in an ischemic stroke or limit hemorrhage in the case of a hemorrhagic stroke. Treatment is aimed at maximizing the chances of recovery.
Treatment may include intra-arterial clot removal or the administration of thrombolytics. The key to effective treatment is time. In many instances, the quicker appropriate treatment is started, the better the outcome.
If an accurate diagnosis is not made promptly, lifesaving treatment is delayed. When blood flow to the brain is not restored within the first few hours from the onset of symptoms, brain tissue will die, and damage is usually irreversible.
When symptoms are overlooked or misdiagnosed the consequences can range from mild impairment to death. A delay in treatment due to a misdiagnosis of a stroke can affect all areas of a person’s life. It can result in lost wages, decreased independence and permanent disability.
If you or a loved one suffered a stroke that may not have been treated promptly or was misdiagnosed, we might be able to help. Please call our office at 312-527-4500. Consultation with one of our top-rated attorneys is free.