The Doctor Misdiagnosed Between the Two Different Types of Strokes

Medical Image of the BrainThe American Stroke Association reports that a stroke is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. A stroke is a sudden interruption of blood flow to part of the brain. The longer the brain cells are deprived of blood flow, the more will die. Therefore, it is essential that a correct diagnosis is made without delay, but misdiagnosis is all too common, especially in younger patients.

The two types of stroke are ischemic and hemorrhagic.

Ischemic Strokes

Ischemic strokes are more common, and involve a blockage in a blood vessel in the brain.

Symptoms of Ischemic Strokes Include

  • Numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in the face, arm, or leg, often on only one side of the body
  • Changes in vision, such as double vision or blurred vision
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Confusion or trouble understanding simple statements
  • Problems with walking or balance
  • Sudden, severe headache

If a stroke victim receives treatment with clot busting drugs promptly—within three hours of the stroke—full recovery is often possible. A missed diagnosis will delay treatment, often resulting in severe disability or death.

Sometimes a full-blown ischemic stroke is preceded by a “mini-stroke,” or transient ischemic attack. With TIAs all or some of the above symptoms appear suddenly and then resolve on their own. It is essential that anyone experiencing symptoms that suggest a stroke receive prompt medical evaluation.

Patients presenting with symptoms of stroke are sometimes diagnosed as having hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizure, or vertigo from inner ear problems. Misdiagnosis is especially common among younger patients. In a recent study, researchers at the Wayne State University School of Medicine found that the likelihood of a misdiagnosis decreased if physicians performed an MRI of the patient within 48 hours.

Hemorrhagic Strokes

Hemorrhagic strokes are brain bleeds, in which a blood vessel ruptures and blood flows into the brain. This happens when a patient has an aneurism— a weak area in a blood vessel that usually enlarges or “balloons” over time.

A study sponsored by the American Heart Association found that approximately half of patients with brain aneurysms that are producing symptoms seek medical attention, and 16 to 60 percent of these patients are misdiagnosed. The most frequent incorrect diagnoses were viral meningitis, migraine, tension, and cluster headaches, and hypertension headache.

Misdiagnosis of an aneurysm is often deadly. Among symptomatic aneurysm patients initially misdiagnosed, approximately a third die from a hemorrhagic stroke, a third receive delayed treatment but eventually die or suffer significant disability, and a third survive after treatment with favorable outcome.

Misdiagnosis of a Stroke

Distinguishing between the two types of stroke is essential, because the treatments are different. An ischemic stroke is treated with clot busting drugs, which would increase the bleeding in a hemorrhagic stroke, with devastating results. With a hemorrhagic stroke, bleeding must be stopped. CT scan, MRI, and spinal tap are tests used to determine if a patient is having a hemorrhagic stroke. Eighty percent of strokes are ischemic. A misdiagnosis of the type of stroke can be deadly.

Does Misdiagnosis of a Stroke Mean You Have A Medical Malpractice Claim?

The basic answer is "no". To have a legitimate medical malpractice claim, your surgeon or doctor had to have been grossly negligent in their misdiagnosis. 

If you or someone close to you died or suffered severe disability as the result of a stroke misdiagnosis, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to determine if you have a claim for medical malpractice. Florida has strict time limits within which a malpractice case can be filed, so it is important not to delay.

Do You Think You May Have A Medical Malpractice Claim?

If you believe you may have a Florida medical malpractice claim you need to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney, in order to comply with Florida’s pre-suit investigation requirements, and the strict time limits involved.  Contact us online or call our office directly at 888.815.6398 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. Even if we are unable to take on your case, we always do our best to suggest other attorneys who can assist you.

It's important to keep in mind, in order to have a solid medical malpractice claim your doctor or surgeon must have been negligent in performing their services or diagnosis. Not every case will qualify as medical malpractice.

Jim Dodson
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A Florida injury lawyer, family man and avid cyclist who clients have trusted for over 25 years.