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Failure to Timely Diagnose a Stroke at a Hospital ER

March 18, 2022

Did you know that someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds, and that every four minutes, someone dies of stroke?

When the blood supply to brain tissue is blocked by a blood clot, it’s known as an ischemic stroke. A stroke can also occur when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures causing brain cells to die and leading to functional impairments. This is a hemorrhagic stroke.

Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability both globally and in the U.S., where roughly 800,000 people have strokes every year. With that number of strokes occurring, hospitals and emergency rooms must be always ready to identify and treat stroke patients.

However, it’s not uncommon for patients to arrive at an emergency room with multiple complaints that can give rise to different potential diagnoses. For instance, a patient may come to the ER complaining of primary cardiac symptoms—but they also may say they are experiencing numbness in their arms or hands. In that case, an ER doctor should treat the potential cardiac problem (myocardial infarction or heart attack) as a component of the initial differential diagnosis but should also address the possibility that the problems are the result of a potential stroke or TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). This can be especially important if the patient has underlying risk factors for cerebrovascular disease.

What Kinds of Stroke Are There?

As mentioned above, there are two types of stroke: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.

An ischemic stroke occurs when an artery that supplies blood and oxygen to the brain is blocked. Ischemic strokes make up about 80% of strokes, and blood clots are the most frequent cause of artery blockage that can result in an ischemic stroke.

A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain. With this less common type of stroke, in just minutes brain cells start to die. The causes a hemorrhagic stroke include a bleeding aneurysm, an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), or a break in an artery wall.

Failure to Diagnose Stroke

The effects of ischemic strokes can be reversed with treatment, but these treatments must be administered within the first few hours of a stroke. If an individual has an ischemic stroke, and an ER physician fails to diagnose this in time to administer the treatment, there can be permanent and debilitating injuries.

There are a number of standard tests that can be performed by Emergency Room doctors to evaluate the patient’s vascular status as it concerns the potential for suffering a stroke. These types of standard tests include a carotid ultrasound (carotid Doppler), or echocardiogram. And there are three general categories of drugs that are commonly used to prevent or treat blood clots (thrombosis):

  • Anticoagulants;
  • Fibrinolytics; And
  • Antiplatelet Medications.

These include drugs such as Pradaxa, Angiomax, and ReoPro, as well as warfarin and heparin. But tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, is the only FDA-approved treatment for ischemic or thrombotic stroke that can help restore blood flow to the brain. It’s a powerful medication that’s been effective for people with an ischemic stroke—provided it’s received intravenously within up to 4½ hours of symptoms’ onset, according to the guidelines for the treatment of acute stroke published by the American Heart Association.

There are protocols created to quickly identify whether a patient may be having a stroke, so that testing and treatment can be prompt and efficient, allowing him or her to receive life-saving treatments in a timely manner. But when an ER physician errs and fails to diagnose a stroke, available treatments may not be administered in time. As a result, a patient may have a claim for medical malpractice.

Contact Us

However, if you or a loved one has suffered harm due to a missed or delayed stroke diagnosis, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Buchanan Firm in Michigan for a free consultation. We can discuss your situation if you believe you’ve been injured as the result of a misdiagnosis, missed diagnosis, or an error in lab results.

Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, St. Joe, and Ann Arbor, and rural towns such as Lowell, Ada, Fremont, Newaygo, Grand Haven, Rockford, and Cedar Springs. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital to accommodate you.

Contact us today!