Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States and stroke misdiagnosis is a major healthcare problem. Learning the risk factors and warning signs of a stroke can help you to better advocate for yourself and those you love. If you believe you or someone you’re with may be having a stroke, pay close attention to the time symptoms began. Certain treatment options may depend on the time that has passed.
Symptoms & Signs of a Stroke
Trouble speaking or understanding what others are saying. This might include slurring words or having difficulty understanding speech.
Sudden onset of a severe headache. This may be accompanied by dizziness and vomiting.
Paralysis, weakness, or numbness of the face, arm, or leg. This may develop suddenly and often affects just one side of the body
Problems seeing in one or both eyes. This might include blurred, dimmed, or double vision in one or both eyes.
Trouble walking. This may include dizziness, loss of coordination, or difficulty walking.
Fainting and confusion.
Stroke Warning Signs
Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any of the above signs of a stroke. A good test if you notice these signs in someone you’re with is remembering to act “FAST”. FACE – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their face droop? ARMS – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one drift downward or is unable to rise? SPEECH – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange? TIME – If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 911 or seek immediate emergency medical help.
Understand the risk factors of a stroke
There are many risk factors for a stroke. Some are lifestyle choices that you can control, others are medical in nature. Reduce your stroke risk by working to reduce your risk factors wherever possible. Risk factors of stroke include:
High blood pressure
Sickle cell disease
Family history of stroke
Heavy or binge drinking
Previous stroke or transient ischemic attack
Birth control pills
As we mentioned and you can see with the risk factors, some are controllable. Working with your family doctor to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in the normal range, as well as quitting smoking and cutting down on drinking can help. Getting active, eating healthy, staying at a healthy weight, and lowering your stress levels are all controllable and can help you reduce the risk of stroke as well.
Type of strokes
2 Main types of strokes
An ischemic stroke happens when a blood vessel supplying blood to your brain gets blocked by a blood clot. The majority of strokes are ischemic. Symptoms of an ischemic stroke can include many of those we mentioned above. You are more likely to have an ischemic stroke if you are over age 60, smoke, and have high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
A hemorrhagic stroke happens when bleeding in the brain damages nearby cells. The most common causes of this type of stroke are high blood pressure, injury, bleeding disorders, cocaine use, and an aneurysm. Symptoms can include intense headache, confusion, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light, problems with vision, and fainting.
Transient Ischemic Attack or Mini Stroke
A TMI or mini-stroke is a temporary blockage of the blood flow to your brain. The symptoms might last for just a few minutes or may last longer. The symptoms of TIA are similar to those we mentioned above under the symptoms & signs of a stroke. Risk factors can include age, obesity, smoking, family history, atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease.
Being better prepared and knowing the warning signs of a stroke can help you seek treatment faster. Teach your children and others in your family about FAST. Precious moments count when it comes to a stroke. When a stroke victim’s signs and symptoms have been misdiagnosed, it can lead to a tragic delay in treatment. If you believe you or a family member are the victims of stroke misdiagnosis or a delay in diagnosis and treatment on the part of a medical professional, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. A misdiagnosed stroke can have long-lasting consequences. Contact Distasio & Kowalski stroke misdiagnosis lawyers to see if you have a medical malpractice case.
A delay in stroke diagnosis or failure to diagnose a stroke can lead to permanent brain damage or even death. Delay in diagnosis or failure to diagnose a stroke might happen for a variety of reasons. One of the most critical mistakes a medical professional can make is a misdiagnosis of a stroke. According to the American Heart Association 2022 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update Fact Sheet, stroke accounted for 1 of every 19 deaths in the United States. On average, someone died of a stroke every 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
7 Possible causes for a delay in stroke diagnosis
Failure on the part of a medical professional to properly prioritize the care of a patient based on the severity of injury/illness.
Failure on the part of a healthcare professional to ask about risk factors and take a detailed medical history.
Inadequate levels of medical staff in a healthcare facility.
Failure by a physician to conduct a proper physical exam or order the appropriate testing based on symptoms.
Lack of experience on the part of medical staff.
Failure to properly monitor a patient.
Failure to follow proper protocol for stroke patients
Tests to help properly diagnose a stroke
Getting the proper medical treatment quickly when suffering a stroke is critical for minimizing the side effects and preventing death. This includes a thorough physical and neurological exam. Unfortunately, an ER doctor or other medical professional might overlook or ignore early signs of a stroke. It happens more often than you may realize, causing a critical delay in treatment. Here are some tests that can help properly diagnose a stroke.
Magnetic resonance imaging or MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves to take a detailed picture of a brain. It’s sharper than a CT scan and
MRI ( Magnetic resonance imaging ) of brain
can show injuries earlier than a traditional CT scan.
CT scans. Through computerized tomography (CT) scans, a physician takes several x-rays from different angles and puts them together to show if there’s any bleeding in the brain or damage to brain cells.
Carotid ultrasound. This type of ultrasound uses sound waves to find fatty deposits that may have narrowed or blocked arteries that carry blood to your brain.
This imaging test of the heart can look for clots in the heart or enlarged parts of the heart. Sometimes clots that form in another part of the body, such as the heart, will travel to the brain.
Angiograms of the head and neck. This is a dye test that enables a physician to see blood vessels with an X-ray. It can help find a blockage or aneurysm.
If you’re advocating for someone you believe is having a stroke, don’t be afraid to request these tests.
The use of tPA as a stroke treatment
tPA (Tissue Plasminogen Activator) is a powerful drug used to help dissolve a clot that may be causing a patient’s stroke and restore blood flow to the brain. tPA would only be given to a patient with an ischemic or blockage-type stroke. Ischemic strokes account for about 85% of all strokes in the U.S. and tPA is a common treatment of ischemic stroke caused by a clot. It would be very dangerous if given to a patient who is already bleeding, such as one suffering from a hemorrhagic stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when an artery in the brain leaks blood or ruptures. For tPA to be used correctly, a brain scan is used to determine what type of stroke occurred, if there is a clot, and if so, where it is located. tPA must be given within three hours of the first sign of ischemic stroke.
Consequences of failure to diagnose a stroke
Many victims of delayed stroke diagnosis face lengthy recovery and lifelong medical bills. Importantly, failure to diagnose and properly treat a stroke can result in serious neurological impairments, including:
Sadly, one of the most frequent types of medical malpractice cases we see is a failure to diagnose a stroke. As we mentioned above, stroke treatment is most successful with early intervention and proper diagnosis and care. Importantly, delay in diagnosis can have lifelong consequences for a stroke patient. The National Institute of Health reported that each year, about 795,000 people in the U.S. suffer from strokes. It is a leading cause of death and disability. If you or a loved one have been injured because of failure to diagnose a stroke, the medical misdiagnosis lawyers at Distasio & Kowalski can help.
Distasio & Kowalaski LLC is pleased to announce that attorneys Daniel J. Distasio and Michael J. Kowalski, partners in the personal injury firm, have been named Pennsylvania Super Lawyers for the 13th consecutive year. Both have been top-rated in the category of Personal Injury Attorney.
“We are honored to have been chosen by our peers for this recognition which distinguishes attorneys who achieve and maintain the highest standards within their respected fields,” commented Daniel Distasio and Michael Kowalski. “We feel fortunate to represent clients within our community and are focused on providing legal representation that is professional, ethical, and compassionate.”
Super Lawyers rates lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high level of peer recognition and professional achievement. The objective is to create a comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys. Selections are made on an annual state-by-state basis via a rigorous evaluation process. Each year, no more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state receive this honor bestowed by Super Lawyers magazine. The annual selections are made using a multiphase process that includes nominations, independent research, peer reviews, and evaluation by practice area. Attorneys are evaluated based on peer recognition and achievements including verdicts/settlements, representative clients, experience, honors/awards, pro bono and community service, and other outstanding achievements among other criteria.
Distasio & Kowalski LLC is located in Wilkes-Barre. The personal injury firm specializes in Auto & Truck Accidents, Medical Malpractice, Birth Injury, and Wrongful Death. For more information on Distasio & Kowalski LLC, please visit www.dklawllc.com or call 570-970-5400.
Preventable medical errors can cost you your health and possibly even your life. Each year people across the country die or are severely injured due to preventable medical errors. While we look to medical providers to diagnose and treat us, preventable medical errors can and do happen in healthcare settings. A new study detailed in an article by Yale University reported that most hospital medical errors involve poor monitoring or management of medical conditions. Diagnostic errors and errors related to surgery and procedures are also prevalent. While any medical error can be dangerous, there are some that are more common and can be more harmful.
Delayed Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis
A timely, accurate diagnosis is critical to your getting proper medical care. A fairly common medical error, delayed, or the wrong diagnosis can result in severe harm to a patient. Misdiagnosis may occur because a healthcare provider failed to ask the right questions or order adequate testing for a patient. A busy physician might order tests, but then fail to review thoroughly. Even if an accurate diagnosis is eventually made, a delay in diagnosis on the part of a healthcare provider can lead to the loss of valuable time in treating a serious illness.
Protect yourself from delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis
Take an active role in your care. Advocate for yourself, and ask questions. Being involved as a patient can be very important in preventing diagnosis errors. Follow up on test results and speak up if you have doubts.
Provide a full medical history. If you feel your medical provider is not asking enough about your history, speak up and provide as much information as you can.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion. Quality healthcare professionals support that decision.
Bring a family member to appointments or to the hospital to ask questions and help get information from your doctor.
Educate yourself and research your symptoms.
According to the FDA, a medication error is defined as any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the healthcare professional, patient, or consumer. Medical errors are one of the most common, preventable medical errors. Medication errors can occur when a patient gets the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. This error can occur on the part of a doctor writing a prescription or entering medication into a computer system, a nurse dispensing medication to a patient or a pharmacist error in filling a prescription. Medication errors are also caused by incorrect labeling on the part of a drug manufacturer.
The FDA has put many safeguards in place to help prevent medication errors. This includes barcodes that allow healthcare professionals to verify the right drug and dose is being given to a patient. They have also published guidelines to help manufacturers design drug labels and packaging to minimize or eliminate hazards that lead to medication errors.
To be proactive in helping to prevent medication errors, the FDA recommends that you:
Ask your doctor the name and purpose of any drug you are prescribed, as well as the risks and potential side effects. Ask about drug and food interactions as well.
Be sure you understand the directions in taking the drug, dosage, etc.
Check the container label each time you take a medication. Don’t transfer medication to another container, so you can always check the original label.
Keep an updated list of all of the medications you are taking.
If in doubt about medication, double-check with your pharmacist or another healthcare provider.
Surgical Medical Errors
Mistakes during and after surgery can have devastating results. This includes medical complications and possibly even death. Surgical errors can include wrong-site surgery, wrong operation, operating on the wrong part of the body, leaving a foreign object in a patient, or operating on the wrong patient. Post-surgical errors can include neglect in providing proper post-op care.
Protect yourself from surgical errors
A common theme for protecting yourself from medical errors is asking questions. Fully understanding your procedure and treatment can help you catch potential problems. Talk to your surgeon about the details of the procedure.
Research your procedure.
Take notes and detail everything.
Request medical staff show you where they will be performing surgery and mark the spot.
Errors involving anesthesia can cause permanent injuries or death. They can include failing to evaluate a patient’s medical history for possible complications or failing to provide proper instructions. Administering the wrong dose of anesthesia, improper placement of breathing tube, or not properly monitoring a patient on anesthesia are other potential errors.
Be proactive with speaking with your anesthesiologist before surgery
Be sure you are supplied specific instructions prior to surgery that addresses preparation. This might include not eating or taking certain medications. You will meet your anesthesiologist on the day of the operation before surgery. If you have questions or concerns, be sure the anesthesiologist addresses all of your concerns.
Childbirth Medical Errors
Childbirth errors can have tragic results, harming both the mother and child. Birth injuries that may result from medical errors or medical malpractice include cerebral palsy, brain injuries, paralysis, and bone fractures.
Childbirth medical errors that can cause serious harm include:
Not anticipating possible pregnancy and birth complications.
Failure to diagnoses a medical condition or birth defect.
Failure to respond to fetal distress.
Not performing or delay in performing a cesarean section.
Incorrect use of vacuum extractors or forceps.
To ensure proper care during childbirth:
Seek regular prenatal care. Regular check-ups with your obstetrician and early detection of potential problems will help prevent complications. Be sure your doctor is carefully monitoring your health throughout your pregnancy.
Eat a healthy diet.
Determine whether your selected medical professional is qualified to handle your birth. Are they skilled and experienced in handling birthing complications should they arise? Talk extensively with your obstetrician about your options and be well-prepared for delivery.
Lack of coordination between healthcare providers
In today’s medical world there are often multiple healthcare providers taking care of one patient. Communication and coordination are critical to the safe and successful treatment of a patient. A mistake in or lack of communicating can result in testing, treatment, medication, and other medical errors. Be sure your healthcare providers are all on the same page when it comes to your treatment.
Get help if you are the victim of medical errors
The most common contributing cause of medical errors is human error. A lack of training, fatigue, or simple carelessness can all contribute to medical errors. Charting and lab errors are common and can lead to patient injury. When there is a breach of duty on the part of a medical professional to provide competent care, it could be considered medical malpractice. If a medical error has injured you or someone you love, you need the help of medical malpractice attorney. A qualified medical error attorney can help when dealing with hospitals and their insurance company. The medical injury attorneys at Distasio & Kowalski can provide a free, confidential consultation. Our medical malpractice lawyers will work to determine if the injuries caused were due to medical negligence. Contact a medical malpractice attorney at Distasio & Kowalski in Wilkes-Barre today.
Michael J. Kowalski, a partner in the personal injury firm of Distasio & Kowalski, LLC, was recently selected among America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators® for 2020. Kowalski was selected for excellence in medical malpractice litigation and personal injury litigation.
Selection to America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators® is by invitation only. It is limited to the Top 100 professionals from each state in each category of practice who best exhibit excellence and the highest ethical standards in their respective professions. This honor is meant to identify and highlight the accomplishments of the nation’s most esteemed and skilled litigators in high stakes legal matters. Less than 1% of professionals in the United States are selected for America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators®.
To be considered, an attorney must have litigated a matter with at least $2,000,000 in alleged damages at stake or with the fate of a business worth at least $2,000,000 at stake. A multi-phase selection process includes third-party research and statistical analysis of a candidate’s professional experience, achievements, significant results, community impact, peer reputation, consumer satisfaction, and other factors specific to the profession. The selection process ensures that attorneys selected for this honor reflect the highest ideals and ethical standards of the legal profession.
Located in Wilkes-Barre, PA, Distasio & Kowalski LLC, specializes in cases involving Medical Malpractice, Birth Injury, Auto & Truck Accidents, Personal Injury, and Wrongful Death.
For more information on Distasio & Kowalski LLC, please visit www.dklawllc.com or call 570-970-5400.