The Dangers of Stroke Misdiagnosis

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

We’ve all heard about the real danger of stroke and stroke misdiagnosis. Perhaps you’ve even had a family member or friend suffer from a debilitating stroke. Stroke is the number 2 most common cause of death worldwide, according to the American Stroke Association (ASA). Every 40 seconds on average, an American will have a stroke, according to the American College of Cardiology. Startling, but true. In fact, about 750,000 Americans have a new recurring stroke annually.

An article written by a long-time neurologist and published last year in the Washington Post suggested that “too many people die from a stroke because treatment is delayed.” He wrote that although for more than two decades neurologists and other emergency health providers have had access to a drug to restore blood flow to the brain, limiting the damage caused by a stroke, only about 4 percent of stroke patients actually receive the medication. The drug referred to is tissue plasminogen activator or tPA as it is more commonly called. It is a potent blood thinner. For tPA to be effective, it must be used within the first few hours of a patient experiencing a stroke. 

Types of Strokes 

You may hear about the dangers of a stroke, but you may not really understand what a stroke is. In simple terms, a stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is stopped or interrupted. Stroke can happen to anyone at any time. The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to work correctly. When blood flow stops, even for a short period of time, brain cells can begin to die from lack of oxygen. When brain cells die, brain function can be lost, and long-term damage can result.

Two types of stroke include ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot, and hemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by bleeding. Ischemic stroke is the most common kind of stroke. This is the type of stroke that tPA can be effective in treating. Ischemic strokes account for approximately 87 percent of all strokes. They can happen when a major blood vessel to the brain is blocked be either by a clot or some type of plaque buildup. The buildup can be due to cholesterol, fat or another substance. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and the blood leaks into nearby brain tissue. This may cause a buildup of pressure which causes further damage.

Stroke misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis

The specific type of stroke means a difference in medical treatment, so a quick and accurate diagnosis is imperative. Delayed stroke diagnosis or stroke misdiagnosis can mean valuable time lost when it comes to effectively treating a stroke victim.  Failure to determine the specific type of stroke or misdiagnosing a stroke as another illness can drastically impact a patient’s chance of recovery. Stroke misdiagnosis may result in a brain hemorrhage, permanent brain damage and possibly death.  

What are the signs of a stroke?

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Unforeseen trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Problems with movement or walking
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Call 911 immediately if you or a loved one experiences any of the above signs. Take note of the time the signs began as well. Responding medical team and hospital staff will need to know.

How is a stroke diagnosed and stroke misdiagnosis avoided?

X-ray asian skull and blank area at left side

As we’ve spoken about above, stroke misdiagnosis can have dangerous results for a stroke victim. A fast and accurate diagnosis of a stroke is imperative for effective treatment and recovery. That’s why it’s so imperative that healthcare providers diagnose quickly and accurately. Tests for stroke can include a CT scan of the brain, MRI, or CTA (computed tomographic angiography) among others. Proper testing can help avoid stroke misdiagnosis. Your physician will create a treatment plan based on various factors. Treatment is most effective when it is started quickly. Recovery from stroke is often dependent on the quickness and accurateness of diagnosis and treatment, as well as the size and location of the stroke.

Know the risk factors of stroke

Are you at risk for stroke? Knowing your risk factors may help you to change things in your control to lower your risk. Here are some risk factors to watch out for. Some can be changed by you or managed medically. It’s always smart to be aware.

  • High blood pressure – High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of both stroke and heart disease. High blood pressure causes plaque to build up faster and can also cause blood vessels to weaken and break. It can be a cause of both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. If you have high blood pressure, speak to your physician about ways to lower it.
  • Heart disease – If you suffer from some forms of heart disease, you may be at increased risk of a stroke. Again, speak to your physician regarding combatting this.
  • Diabetes – High blood sugar can also increase your risk of stroke. It’s essential to carefully manage this.
  • Smoking – Smoking is a major risk factor for stroke that is also preventable. If you are a smoker, quit now to lower your risk.
  • History of TIAs (transient ischemic attacks) or mini-strokes as they are commonly called.
  • High cholesterol and lipids – Monitoring and controlling your cholesterol may help you reduce your risk of stroke.
  • Obesity & diet – Staying at a healthy weight and reducing your intake of saturated fats can help you reduce your risk of stroke. Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise your cholesterol levels, increasing your risk. Diets high in sodium can increase your blood pressure, which also increases your risk.
  • Lack of exercise – Staying physically active can also help reduce your risk. Physical inactivity not only increases your risk of stroke but also heart disease.
  • Excessive alcohol or illegal drug use
  • Age – Your risk of stroke increases in people over 55 years of age and continues to increase as you get older.
  • Heredity and ethnicity – Stroke is more common in people who have a family history of stroke. African Americans and Hispanic Americans are also at a higher risk.

Take a quick stroke risk quiz online to assess your risk by clicking here.

F.A.S.T.

The American Stroke Association recommends that people remember F.A.S.T. when it comes to identifying a stroke quickly.

Face drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb?

Arm weakness – Is one arm week or numb?

Speech problems – Is speech slurred?

Time to call 911 – If someone is showing any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Stroke medical malpractice 

Stroke misdiagnosis can be very dangerous. We can’t mention enough that it is crucial that a stroke is diagnosed and treated quickly to minimize the long-term effects. If tPA isn’t administered within 3 hours of the start of symptoms or a patient doesn’t get the necessary surgery to stop brain bleeding, the consequences of a stroke can be permanently incapacitating. When a healthcare provider fails to accurately diagnose a stroke, a patient may suffer serious brain damage that might have been avoided with a fast diagnosis and proper treatment. Physicians, ER staff and other healthcare providers should be well aware of the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke. They should also address the risk factors when taking a patient history.

Medical standard of care

If you or a loved one suffered serious harm because a physician failed to follow the “medical standard of care,” you may have a medical malpractice case. The “medical standard of care” is defined as the level and type of care that a reasonably competent and skilled healthcare professional, with a similar background and in the same medical community, would have provided under the same circumstances. It is a possibility that the standard of care might have been violated when a physician fails to recognize the common signs of stroke or diagnoses the stroke but fails to give the proper treatment. Standard of care may have been violated if a health provider failed to take a proper medical history, failed to order appropriate tests or through a negligent surgical error. If you suspect medical negligence, it may be time to consult a medical malpractice expert.

Consulting a stroke medical malpractice attorney regarding stroke misdiagnosis

The financial effects of a debilitating stroke can have a devastating effect on a family. It can mean extensive medical and rehab bills, loss of work, and loss of quality of life. If you or a loved one has suffered serious injury due to a hospital or physician’s failure to diagnose or properly treat a stroke, you may want to speak to a medical malpractice attorney.

An experienced stroke medical malpractice lawyer will be able to conduct a thorough investigation to discover if the appropriate standard of care was met. A medical malpractice attorney can analyze the medical records, conduct interviews and look at the extent of the injury. They can determine through this investigation if a healthcare provider failed to miss a common warning sign of stroke, failed to exercise reasonable care while evaluating a patient, failed to obtain a thorough history, or failed to administer life-saving treatment, among other medical errors.  They may or may not find some type of negligent medical error and can advise you as to whether or not to pursue a medical malpractice case.

Speak to a Distasio Kowalski stroke medical malpractice attorney in Wilkes-Barre today by calling 855-970-5400. Read more about medical malpractice or medical misdiagnosis on our website.

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Medical errors more common than you think explains injury attorney

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

A medical error is a preventable adverse effect of medical care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient. A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins medicine said that medical errors should rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States. Hard to imagine, we know.  Highlighted by the report was a failure to accurately track vital statistics, which hindered research on the subject and more accurate reporting. Researchers called for more detailed coding on death certificates. The hope is to more accurately capture if a medical error is the cause.

This lack of detailed accounting on both injuries and fatalities as a result of medical error and medical mistakes, has led to this very real problem not getting the focus it deserves. Patient safety needs to be a top priority of our healthcare system and legislatures. No one expects to seek medical attention and experience further harm as a result. A sad fact is that it can and does happen. Read on to learn about many types of medical errors that can occur.

Common medical errors

  • Misdiagnosis – An error in diagnosis or delayed diagnosis is the most common type of medical error. Often, a speedy and accurate diagnosis is

    Physicians performing surgery

    essential in starting a proper course of treatment. A wrong diagnosis can cause a dangerous and sometimes fatal delay in treatment.

  • Surgical errors – We’ve all heard horror stories of wrong site surgeries, or even of surgeons operating on the wrong patient. There are many surgical errors that are a result of medical negligence. An example of this is leaving objects, such as surgical sponges or even medical instruments inside a patient’s body after surgery. Puncturing an organ or causing an infection due to a surgical error are other problems that can lead to serious injury, as is failing to properly monitor vital signs. Surgical errors can lead to a devastating outcome for a patient.
  • Anesthesia errors – One of the most serious medical malpractice injuries can come from a negligent anesthesia error. This can sometimes result in brain damage, coma or death before action can be taken. More specifically, anesthesia errors can result in stroke, heart attack, asphyxia, brain injury, birth defects and many more injuries. Giving the wrong dosage of anesthesia, failing to monitor the patient properly, failing to properly administer oxygen or failing to recognize complications are just a few of the anesthesia errors that occur.
  • Medication errors – Medication and other prescription errors can occur at many different stages in the medication prescribing and dispensing process. For instance, an error could be made in ordering or prescribing or in entering the information into a computer. Medication mistakes can also happen when the drug is dispensed or administered or in monitoring the patient. According to the FDA, they receive more than 100,000 reports in the U.S. each year associated with a suspected medication error. Medication errors could result in a variety of injuries from birth defects to adverse reaction, life threatening conditions, disability and even fatality.
  • Errors due to lack of communication – Medical errors and injury may result from the lack of proper communication and coordination between healthcare providers. It can also be a result of lack of communication between a doctor and a patient. Good communication is essential between all parties involved in medical treatment. This is a very preventable medical error that can lead to serious harm.
  • Failure to properly monitor a patient – Failure to monitor could lead to missed medical warning signs. This may result in valuable time lost in properly treating a patient. It may even result in irreversible injury. Monitoring is essential in medical care.
  • Lab errors – Failure to properly read test results can lead to a wrong diagnosis and wrong treatment. This can lead to a dangerous delay in properly treating a medical condition. Errors in testing, reading tests and in communicating results can all cause harm.
  • Medical equipment malfunction – Medical equipment that is not kept in good working order can cause serious harm or possibly death. An example of this might include a case of a malfunctioning defibrillator.
  • Blood transfusions errors – Blood transfusions are high-risk procedures. Errors can occur during the transfusion process. They can occur when identifying a patient, in blood typing, in failing to test for contamination in blood or in failing to recognize a blood transfusion reaction.
  • Birth injuries as a result of medical errors – Every year, tens of thousands of birth injuries occur in the U.S. Birth injuries can include traumatic brain injury or other brain injuries and oxygen deprivation among other errors. A failure to anticipate complications or to diagnose an ailment could be life threatening. Birth injuries that can be caused by medical errors include Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy or HIE. Cerebral Palsy, and Erb’s Palsy/Shoulder Dystocia are other examples of birth injuries. Medical errors resulting in birth injuries can include a failure to detect fetal distress or a delayed cesarean section. They can also include a delay in diagnosis or the improper use of birthing tools among other errors. Birth errors can have a lifelong impact on children and families.

How can patients better protect themselves from certain medical errors?

The sad truth is that many medical errors are often preventable. Medical mistakes are frequently the result of carelessness on the part of a doctor or another medical professional or healthcare provider. Here are five ways you can protect yourself. 

  1. Be assertive and ask questions – Don’t be afraid to ask. You will want to know the risks and disadvantages of various procedures, side effects of medication and other treatments, etc..
  2. Bring along an advocate – It sometimes gets confusing, and having a family member or friend with you at an appointment can help.
  3. Watch for signs of medical staff fatigue in an understaffed health care facility.
  4. Make sure all medical providers know all of the medication you are taking. Alert them to medication allergies and reactions as well.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.

Medical Malpractice

When errors are made in the medical profession, they can result in serious and sometimes fatal consequences. For medical malpractice to be considered in a case, the following must have occurred: harm was suffered by a patient as the result of a medical professional failing to provide a standard of care that other medical professionals would have provided under the same circumstances. If you believe you have been injured by a medical error, it’s important to act quickly to protect your legal rights. Speak to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who can evaluate the circumstances of your case. A knowledgeable medical injury lawyer can tell you if you have a medical malpractice case.

Click to read more from Distasio Kowalski medical injury lawyers about medical malpractice, medical misdiagnosis, or birth injuries.

Read more blogs on the topic of medical errors

Is cerebral palsy caused by medical errors

Understanding the difference between a birth injury and a birth defect

 

 

 

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Is cerebral palsy caused by medical errors?

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong and serious neurological disorder that is often caused by a lack of enough oxygen reaching an infant’s brain during labor or delivery. Head trauma before, during or shortly after birth can be a cause. While not all cases of cerebral palsy are caused by medical error, some certainly are. Medical errors or medical malpractice during labor or delivery can sometimes result in hypoxia, or insufficient oxygen to the brain, or asphyxia, which is insufficient oxygen to the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that 85 to 90 percent of cerebral palsy cases are congenital, or occur before or during the birth.

Cerebral palsy impairs muscle coordination and body movement. Harmful side effects of cerebral palsy can include breathing problems, trouble swallowing, speech impediment, as well as vision and hearing problems. Other side effects include cognitive impairments, seizure disorder, learning disabilities, and inability to control the bladder or bowels and more. 1 in 323 babies in the U.S. is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. This is according to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation.

Types of cerebral palsy

  • Spastic Cerebral Palsy – The most common form of CP, it accounts for for 70-80% of cases. Symptoms include stiff and tight muscles. Those suffering from spastic cerebral palsy may have difficulty moving from one position to another. They may have trouble controlling muscles that are needed to perform tasks such as holding an object or speaking. Spasticity is due to damage to the motor cortex of the brain before, during or after birth.
  • Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy – This form of CP is characterized by involuntary movements, such as twisting and repetitive movements, slow movements or unpredictable movements. It results from damage to the basal ganglia of the brain.
  • Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – Ataxic is characterized by shaky movements that may appear disorganized or jerky, as well as a difficulty in maintaining balance. Ataxia causes an interruption of muscle control in the arms and legs, causing a lack of balance and coordination. It has an impact on the movements required for day-to-day activities. Ataxia results from damage to the cerebellum. 

Medical errors that may result in cerebral palsy

  • Failing to properly monitor the mother or infant before, during or after childbirth.
  • Failure to identify fetal distress by not properly monitoring the fetal heart rate during labor and delivery.
  • The medical mistake of failing to identify and properly treat infections in the mother during pregnancy.
  • Delayed diagnosis and treatment of maternal medical conditions or infections.
  • Failing to identify an umbilical cord prolapse, a birth complication that occurs prior to delivery. Prolapse is when the umbilical cord drops through the open cervix into the vagina ahead of the baby. It sometimes getting trapped against the baby’s body.
  • Medical errors regarding cesarean sections. This can include delaying a cesarean section needed due to an emergency or failing to perform a cesarean section in a high-risk pregnancy. Failing to perform a C-section when the baby is too large to deliver vaginally may also cause an injury. Medical mistakes relating to C-sections can lead to serious birth injuries.
  • Medical negligence in using medical instruments or equipment. This can include the improper use of forceps or vacuum during delivery.
  • Medication errors or the uses of medication that was inappropriate or dangerous for the mother or baby.
  • Inadequate monitoring of the mother and baby when anesthesia is used.
  • Medical diagnostic errors, such as incorrect reading of test results. 

Providing a child with cerebral palsy with the appropriate care can take a toll on a family, both financially and emotionally. Cerebral palsy often requires a lifetime of care. Costly rehab, therapy and home care, as well as other medical expenses can become burdensome to an already struggling family. If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or is exhibiting symptoms of cerebral palsy, and you suspect medical malpractice, contact an experienced birth injury attorney today for help. 

The burden of proof in birth injury cases 

It’s hard to imagine that with just a single medical error, an infant’s life can be permanently harmed. The plaintiff has the burden of proof in a birth injury case. Therefore, a plaintiff must do more than just prove that a child suffers from cerebral palsy. A medical expert is needed to testify as to the specific cause of the disability. The medical expert will also determine whether it is a result of medical error or medical negligence. A doctor or hospital failing to provide the accepted standard of care may be a factor in a cerebral palsy birth injury. Responsible medical parties in a cerebral palsy medical malpractice case can include an OB-GYN, surgeon, doctor, nurse, hospital or healthcare clinic or others.

Statute of limitations in Pennsylvania cerebral palsy cases 

If you feel your child was the victim of medical negligence or has cerebral palsy as the result of a medical error you may be entitled to compensation for those injuries, as well as resulting medical treatment. It is not too late to hold the responsible medical providers accountable for their negligent actions. A statute of limitations establishes the deadline for filing a lawsuit. If the injured victim is a minor at the time the injury or accident occurred, such as in the event of a birth injury, the statute of limitations does not begin until the victim turns 18. An injured child or minor has 2 years to file a lawsuit after they turn 18.

If your baby has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and you believe that medical error or hospital error could have been the cause, you need to contact a medical malpractice lawyer. An experienced cerebral palsy birth injury lawyer can review the details of the case and help determine if medical negligence did cause your child’s birth injury. Medical errors leading to cerebral palsy can occur during pregnancy, labor and birth. They may also occur immediately following the birth of your baby.

Distasio & Kowalski medical malpractice lawyers

The birth injury lawyers at Distasio & Kowalski in Wilkes-Barre can help you to obtain the compensation you deserve. It is our goal to help your family overcome the lifelong difficulties associated with cerebral palsy or other birth injuries. This can include compensation for past and future medical expenses and caretaking costs, as well as for pain and suffering. We are a personal injury firm dedicated to getting injury victims the best possible legal results and holding medical professionals accountable for the harm they cause.

Read more on birth injuries and medical malpractice compensation on our website. Learn more about the early signs of cerebral palsy and screening on the CDC website.

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