A stroke is a medical emergency.  Roughly 800,000 people suffer a stroke every year.  With timely and effective medical care, the patient’s life can be saved. 

However, according to a study published in Neurology, about 9 percent of patients who present to the Emergency Department with stroke are initially mis-diagnosed. 

If a doctor misses the signs of a stroke, and treatment is delayed, this may be medical malpractice.  When this happens, the results are usually catastrophic.  The patient may die or be forced to live the remainder of his or her life in a care home, sometimes unable to walk, talk or feed themselves.  

What is a stroke?

A stroke occurs when there is an interruption of blood flow to part of the brain. The brain is damaged due to lack of blood supply.  Brain cells die quickly when this happens – about two million every minute of a stroke.  Quick diagnosis and treatment are necessary to prevent long term injury or death.  There are several types of stroke, including ischemic stroke, which is when blood vessels become clogged and block blood flow, and hemorrhagic stroke, which is when there is bleeding that prevents appropriate blood flow. Ischemic strokes can be caused by a blood clot that forms in a blood vessel in the brain blocks blood flow (called a thrombotic stroke) or from plaque and blood clots that form elsewhere and then travel through the bloodstream, to the brain where they lodge in a blood vessel (called an embolic stroke).

Did the Doctor miss signs of stroke?

When a patient calls his doctor, or goes to the emergency room with any or all these sudden symptoms, the doctors should rule in or out a stroke:

  • Weakness or numbness on just one side of the body
  • Difficulty speaking or confusion
  • Difficulty seeing
  • Dizziness, trouble walking or loss of balance
  • Severe headache without a cause

If a patient has these symptoms, and the doctor does not rule out stroke, there might be a medical malpractice case.

Did the Doctor identify risk factors for stroke?

There are several factors that can increase a person’s chance of having a stroke:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Excessive drinking

How should stroke be diagnosed and treated?

When a patient presents to the emergency department with sudden symptoms noted above, the doctor should perform a physical exam, ask you or your family about your medical history, perform a neurologic exam and order brain imaging such as CT scan and MRI.

Early treatment of stroke is essential.  The treatment will depend on the type and severity of the stroke. For an ischemic stroke, treatment can include procedures to remove a clot or administering a clot buster (called tPA) which can minimize brain damage.  For a hemorrhagic stroke, the focus of treatment is usually on stopping the bleeding.

After the initial treatment, the patient will likely need rehabilitation depending on the severity of the stroke.

Damages from failure to recognize, diagnose or timely treat a stroke

If a stroke is not timely treated, the patient may die or be permanently damaged.  It might result in inability to communicate, inability to walk, feed or dress themselves. 

Failing to recognize, diagnose or timely treat a stroke may be medical malpractice. If your loved one suffered severe complications as a result, he or she may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, loss of future earnings, household services, past and future medical care and pain and suffering. If your loved one died, you may still have a wrongful death case to help compensate your family for your loss. The recoverable damages varies, and because medical malpractice laws are complex, you should always have your case evaluated by lawyers that specialize in malpractice.

Our Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys Can Help

If you or a loved one suffered a stroke due to medical malpractice, it is important to explore your legal rights. Stroke cases can be very difficult to prove. You must establish that timelier diagnosis and treatment would have made a difference. Medical malpractice laws in Michigan are very tough on patients. Our experience evaluating stroke cases allows us to quickly determine whether you might have a medical malpractice case that should be pursued. Please contact Hoffer & Sheremet, PLC at 616.278.0888 to learn more about compensation to which you or a loved one may be entitled to or fill out our free consultation form