Misdiagnosed Stroke: The Silent Killer

Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States, which at times can lead to a Virginia medical malpractice case.  A stroke, which is also referred to as a brain attack, can occur in an instant.  It doesn’t take long for brain cells to die, as the stroke deprives the brain of much-needed oxygen.

A stroke can lead to a myriad of problems, including permanent brain damage, disability and death.  The good news is that if a stroke is detected early and the appropriate treatment is given, the amount of damage done to the brain can be minimized.

Unfortunately, strokes are often misdiagnosed.

Sometimes, a doctor will fail to diagnose a stroke because the symptoms either aren’t apparent or they are attributed to another illness or medical condition. Misdiagnosed strokes can affect patients of all ages, leaving them to deal with a life of disability or their family members to grieve over their deaths. As a Virginia medical malpractice attorney, this happens more often than I like to see.

Recent study finds that strokes are misdiagnosed in young adults.

One study, which was presented during the American Stroke Association’s International Conference in 2009, found that adults, ages 16 to 50, are sometimes misdiagnosed in emergency rooms.  The study reviewed data on 57 patients, who were enrolled in the Young Stroke Registry at the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.  Here are some of the details of their findings:

  • 14 percent were misdiagnosed as having vertigo, migraine, alcohol intoxication or other conditions.
  • An 18-year-old male stroke patient arrived at the ER complaining of numbness on his left side and was diagnosed with alcohol intoxication.
  • A 48-year-old female stroke patient reported blurred vision, trouble with balance, lack of muscle coordination, trouble speaking and weakness in her hand.  She was diagnosed at the ER as having an inner ear disorder.

According to Seemant Chatuverdi, M.D., senior author of the study and a professor of neurology and director of the stroke program at Wayne State, “accurate diagnosis of stroke on initial presentation in young adults can reduce the number of patients who have continued paralysis and continued speech problems."

Sometimes a misdiagnosed stroke is considered medical malpractice.

Doctors are supposed to follow a certain standard of care with their patients.  If a physician strayed from this standard of care and the patient was injured as a result, it could be considered Virginia medical malpractice. Misdiagnosed strokes often fall into this category.

You can order a FREE copy of our consumer guide, Why Most Medical Malpractice Victims Never Recover a Dime, to learn more about medical malpractice.

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Ben Glass
Ben Glass is a nationally recognized Virginia injury, medical malpractice, and long-term disability attorney