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Medical Malpractice and Stroke

When is Failure to Timely Diagnose and Treat a Stroke Medical Malpractice?

What is a stroke?

When the blood supply to part of your brain is cut-off, or restricted, the brain tissue is deprived of oxygen and nutrients, and as a result, the brain cells begin to die.  This occurs rapidly, within minutes.  A stoke is akin to a heart-attack, but it occurs in the brain rather than the heart and is sometimes called a brain-attack.  The end result can be a brain injury with devastating and debilitating effects.

A precursor, or in other words, a warning sign of a stroke, is a transient ischemic attack (TIA). This is also labeled as a “mini-stroke.”  TIAs typically do not have immediate consequences because the blockage causing a TIA may be temporary.  The blood clot may get dislodged without medical intervention, or dissolve all together resulting in the symptoms abating, and therefore, causing no permanent brain injury.

There are two main categories of a stroke.  A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a weakened blood vessel bursts or leaks, causing the brain to bleed.  An ischemic stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is obstructed, or completely cut-off, resulting in tissue death. Blood clots often cause the blockages that lead to ischemic strokes. According to the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee, 87% of strokes are ischemic strokes.  Strokes kill about 140,000 people annually and it is the primary cause of long-term disability.

A stroke is a medical emergency, necessitating a prompt diagnosis and immediate treatment. Early intervention can minimize brain damage and other complications which occur as a result of a brain injury.

What is tPA?

Tissue plasminogen activator, commonly known as tPA, is an IV medication given to dissolve blood clots, but it can also increase the amount of bleeding in the brain; therefore tPA is only used to treat ischemic strokes.

A CT scan or MRI of the head and skull will confirm whether or not you have had an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke.  If it is an ischemic stroke, the administration of tPA must be given within three (3) hours of the onset of the stroke.  According to the National Institute of Health, clinical trials show evidence that tPA can be effective when administered up to 4.5 hours after the onset of a stroke in certain patients; however, tPA is only FDA approved to be administered within three (3) hours.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) patients treated with tPA protocols were at least 30% more likely to have minimal or no disability three (3) months after the stroke.  THIS IS WHY EVERY MINUTE MATTERS WHEN DIAGNOSING AND TREATING A STROKE!

Why Are Strokes Often Misdiagnosed or Delayed in Diagnosis?

Strokes are often misdiagnosed because the symptoms can echo, or indicate, other medical conditions, such as, to name only a few, migraines; seizure disorders; inner ear infections, insect bites; abnormal blood-glucose levels; and even Carpal Tunnel Syndrome because of its presentation of numbness.  However, no matter what symptoms a patient presents to the Emergency Room (ED) with, strokes can be misdiagnosed, or delayed in a diagnosis, because the doctors and or other medical treaters did not take the time and essential steps to properly evaluate and diagnosis a stroke.

A Johns Hopkins Hospital neurologist, David E.Newman-Toker, M.D., Ph.D, was the lead researcher who studied the frequency in which strokes were misdiagnosed in the ED.  The 2008-09 study sample included the databases from nine U.S. hospitals.  The conclusion of Newman-Toker’s study estimated between 15,000–165,000 misdiagnosed cerebrovascular events occurred yearly in the ED.  Other notable findings in Toker-Newman’s study revealed:

  • Nearly 13% of people who were later admitted to the hospital with a stroke had been

originally misdiagnosed in the ED and sent home 30 days prior to being hospitalized for

a stroke;

  • Missed hemorrhages were linked to a headache while missed ischemic strokes and TIAs were linked to headache or dizziness;
  • The probability of a misdiagnosis was lower among men, older individuals, and Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries compared to privately insured patients; and
  • Odds were higher among African Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics, as well as higher odds in non-teaching and/or low-volume hospitals.

What Does a Stroke Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis Mean to You?

A brain injury from a stroke can leave you, or your loved one, with debilitating and permanent physical impairment, as well as financial devastation.  The costs of medical care after a stroke are extremely high and vary significantly by the type of stoke suffered and its resulting injuries.  Some stroke victims often require further medical intervention, or even permanent placement, at a long-term acute care facility.  This type of care can cost you or your family several thousand dollars per day.

Other economic considerations include loss of future earnings and future medical expenses.  This does not take in to account non-economic for pain and suffering.

There is NO REASON a medical provider cannot timely identify your, or your loved ones, symptoms, and perform a proper exam and the necessary screening tests (such as a chest x-ray, urinalysis, blood screening, imaging of the brain and skull, and a neurological consultation) to quickly rule out other conditions and to identify whether you have had a stroke.  It is also imperative to identify which type of stroke you have had so the proper treatment can be administered to minimize the damage a stroke induced brain injury can cause and give you the optimum chance for recovery.

What to do After a Stoke Misdiagnosis or Delayed Treatment?

The financial impact of a stroke and the required and costly treatment and rehabilitation for the same is overwhelming and adds to the emotional trauma you and your family may already be suffering. It is difficult to think about consulting with an attorney in the immediate wake of a stroke; however, most unfortunately, there are time limitations in which to bring a claim against a medical provider for a medical error which caused you or your loved one harm.  There is nothing that can make you or your family whole again, but you may be entitled to compensation to mitigate the financial impact of a medical mistake.

Please contact us to discuss your case.  You will speak directly with an attorney.  There is no fee for an initial consultation.

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