What Is a Stroke and How Does It Occur?
A stroke occurs when there is an interruption of normal blood flow to a part or all of the brain which causes permanent neurological injury that can vary in symptoms and severity, including death. There are two main types of strokes, ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke.
- Ischemic stroke happens when a blood clot blocks one of the blood vessels going to your brain. Part of your brain doesn’t get the oxygen it needs and after a time, neurons die. Ischemic strokes can have different rates of progression and sometimes, symptoms can come and go, a condition known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). With transient ischemic attacks the risk of a completed stroke occurring subsequently is substantial. The main cause of injury in ischemic stroke is a slower death of brain cells as they are starved of oxygen and nutrients. Diagnosing an ischemic stroke early is important to be able to restore oxygen and nutrients to areas of the brain at risk of injury.
- Hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel in your brain bursts, causing bleeding inside your brain. This bleeding leads to a pressure buildup in the tissue and brain, causing a lack of blood flow and injury. Hemorrhagic strokes are often immediate and more dramatic than ischemic onset strokes. Often, treatment involves stopping the bleeding and preventing pressure buildup from blood clots in the ventricular system. Sometimes a hemorrhagic stroke is predicted by a small bleed that occurs before a critical vessel rupture; this is known as a sentinel bleed. Diagnosing a sentinel bleed can lead to treatment that could avert actual rupture and stroke.
When a part of your brain doesn’t get what it needs to work properly, it starts to get damaged. This can affect different parts of your body, depending on what part of your brain is affected. For example, someone might have trouble speaking, seeing, or moving one side of their body.
What Are Symptoms of a Stroke?
The symptoms of an ischemic stroke can be remembered using the acronym “FAST”:
F – Face Drooping: One side of the face may droop or feel numb. When the person tries to smile, the smile might appear uneven.
A – Arm Weakness: There may be weakness or numbness in one arm. When the person tries to raise both arms, one arm may drift downward.
S – Speech Difficulty: The person might have trouble speaking. Their speech may be slurred, or they might not be able to talk at all. They may also have difficulty understanding what others are saying.
T – Time to Call Emergency Services: If you notice any of these symptoms, even if they go away, it’s important to call emergency services immediately. Time is critical in treating a stroke.
Other symptoms of a stroke can include:
- sudden confusion or trouble understanding things.
- sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.
- sudden severe headache with no known cause.
These symptoms can come on suddenly and vary in severity. It’s important to act quickly if you suspect someone is having a stroke, as early treatment can significantly improve outcomes.
Why Stroke Is Misdiagnosed?
Misdiagnosing a stroke or a delayed diagnosis for a stroke can be attributed to several factors, such as symptoms that are less common or mild, and can therefore be overlooked or attributed to other health conditions. For example, a person might experience only slight dizziness, a mild headache, or a brief episode of confusion. Symptoms of a stroke can sometimes mimic those of other medical conditions like migraines, epilepsy, or inner ear disorders. This can lead to misdiagnosis, especially in emergency settings where rapid decisions are made.
Sometimes, both patients and healthcare providers are not fully aware of all the possible symptoms of a stroke. Or, doctors might not suspect a stroke in patients who don’t fit the typical profile for stroke risk, such as younger individuals, women, or people without traditional risk factors like hypertension or atrial fibrillation.
In some cases, stroke misdiagnosis occurs because the physician failed to perform important diagnostic imaging because the diagnosis of stroke was not considered, causing loss of valuable time.
What Are the Consequences of an Undiagnosed or Misdiagnosed Stroke?
The consequences of undiagnosed or misdiagnosed stroke can lead to serious issues that impact both health and quality of life.
- Increased brain damage –Without prompt treatment, the brain continues to suffer from a lack of oxygen and nutrients. This can lead to more extensive brain damage, affecting various functions like movement, speech, and cognition.
- Physical disabilities – A delay in stroke treatment can result in more severe physical impairments. This might include paralysis, muscle weakness, or difficulty with coordination and balance.
- Cognitive impairments – Undiagnosed or misdiagnosed strokes can lead to more severe cognitive problems, such as difficulties with memory, attention, problem-solving, and other aspects of thinking and reasoning.
- Speech and language problems – A stroke can affect areas of the brain responsible for language, leading to difficulties in speaking, understanding, reading, or writing. Delayed stroke diagnosis can worsen these issues.
- Emotional and mental health changes – Stroke survivors may experience depression, anxiety, and changes in personality. Early intervention can help manage these changes more effectively.
- Reduced quality of life – The combination of physical, cognitive, and emotional effects can significantly impact a person’s ability to work, engage in social activities, and maintain independence.
- Mortality – In the most severe cases, a misdiagnosed stroke can increase the risk of death due to the initial or a subsequent stroke.
Prompt recognition and treatment of a stroke are crucial for minimizing its impact and improving the outcome. This is why awareness of stroke symptoms and the importance of immediate medical attention are so vital.
What Can You Do After a Stroke Misdiagnosis?
Patients who suffer a stroke misdiagnosis are often severely physically and cognitively injured to the point where they need family members to help them find therapy to maximize their recovery and to protect their legal rights. Experienced medical malpractice attorneys know the importance of analyzing the medical records to see if a proper history, physical examination, and imaging studies were performed in a timely manner and if an opportunity to prevent brain injury was missed. Only after a careful evaluation can a patient know if medical malpractice occurred, at which point a medical malpractice law firm should be contacted.