A stroke can be a life-changing event leading to permanent disability, memory problems, and other serious health complications. However, with a timely and correct diagnosis, stroke sufferers can be treated and significantly rehabilitated. Sadly, strokes are commonly misdiagnosed, especially in the young (for whom strokes are rare and therefore doctors often fail to order appropriate testing) and the elderly (for whom strokes are often misinterpreted as other diseases associated with aging). Like all medical negligence cases, those involving stroke misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis are highly complex in nature and replete with opportunities for negligent parties to avoid taking responsibility. We diligently discover the important facts, retain world-class expert witnesses, and methodically prepare stroke misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis cases for trial in a way that maximizes the opportunity for a verdict that provides justice for our clients.
More about strokes…
A stroke happens when blood flow to a part of the brain stops. A stroke is sometimes called a “brain attack.” If blood flow is stopped for longer than a few seconds, the brain cannot get blood and oxygen. Brain cells can die, causing permanent damage.
There are two major types of stroke: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. This may happen in two ways:
- a clot may form in an artery that is already very narrow — this is called a thrombotic stroke; or
- a clot may break off from another place in the blood vessels of the brain, or from some other part of the body, and travel up to the brain — this is called cerebral embolism or an embolic stroke
Ischemic strokes may be caused by clogged arteries. Fat, cholesterol and other substances collect on the artery walls, forming a sticky substance called plaque.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in part of the brain becomes weak and bursts open, causing blood to leak into the brain. Some people have defects in the blood vessels of the brain that make this more likely.
Risk Factors for Stroke
High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for strokes. The other major risk factors are:
- atrial fibrillation;
- family history of stroke;
- high cholesterol;
- increasing age, especially after age 55;
- race (African Americans are more likely to die of a stroke);
- people who have heart disease or poor blood flow in their legs caused by narrowed arteries are also more likely to have a stroke;
- being overweight or obese;
- drinking alcohol heavily;
- eating too much fat or salt;
- taking cocaine and other illegal drugs; and
- birth control pills (increases the chances of having blood clots).
Stroke symptoms depend on what part of the brain is damaged. In some cases, a person may not know that he or she has had a stroke. Symptoms usually develop suddenly and without warning, but sometimes occur on and off for the first day or two. Symptoms are usually most severe when the stroke first happens, but they may slowly get worse.
A headache may occur, especially if the stroke is caused by bleeding in the brain. The headache:
- starts suddenly and may be severe;
- occurs when you are lying flat;
- wakes you up from sleep; or
- gets worse when you change positions or when you bend, strain or cough.
Other symptoms depend on how severe the stroke is and what part of the brain is affected and may include:
- change in alertness (including sleepiness, unconsciousness and coma);
- changes in hearing;
- changes in taste;
- changes that affect touch and the ability to feel pain, pressure or different temperatures;
- confusion or loss of memory;
- difficulty swallowing;
- difficulty writing or reading;
- dizziness or abnormal feeling of movement (vertigo);
- lack of control over the bladder or bowels;
- loss of balance;
- loss of coordination;
- muscle weakness in the face, arm or leg (usually just on one side);
- numbness or tingling on one side of the body;
- personality, mood or emotional changes;
- problems with eyesight, including decreased vision, double vision or total loss of vision;
- trouble speaking or understanding others who are speaking; or
- trouble walking.
If a stroke is suspected, your doctor may:
- check for problems with vision, movement, feeling, reflexes, understanding and speaking;
- listen for an abnormal sound, called a “bruit,” when using a stethoscope to listen to the carotid arteries in the neck;
- check your blood pressure (which may be high);
- order an angiogram of the head (which can show a blocked or bleeding blood vessel is blocked or bleeding);
- order a carotid duplex (ultrasound), which can show if the carotid arteries in your neck have narrowed
- order a CT or MRI scan of the brain;
- order an echocardiogram (which may show whether the stroke could have been caused by a blood clot from the heart); or
- order a magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) or CT angiography to check for abnormal blood vessels in the brain.
The recovery time and need for long-term treatment is different for each person. Problems moving, thinking and talking often improve in the weeks and months after a stroke. Some stroke victims—especially those who receive timely and proper medical care—will keep improving in the months or years after the stroke and may return to their normal lives. However, for the patients, young and old, who are not properly diagnosed and treated by healthcare providers, the outcome, and the prospect for a return to normal daily living, are grim.
If you or a loved one have suffered as a result of a stroke misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, we can obtain the necessary medical records and have an expert physician review the file free of charge to determine whether a doctor or other healthcare provider was negligent. Your best bet for a full and fair recovery in a stroke case is retaining a Georgia medical malpractice firm like Davis Adams with successful experience in handling these types of case.