According to the CDC, more than 795,000 people in the U,S, suffer a stroke each year. The WHO lists stroke as the second leading cause of death worldwide. Even when patients survive, strokes have a serious risk of causing long-term disability. For this reason, the decision to seek immediate medical attention is often a matter of life or death.

Because every moment counts, medical malpractice related to a stroke is especially devastating. Emergency physicians must recognize the symptoms, which tend to come on suddenly and include weakness or numbness, vision loss, facial drooping, loss of balance, and severe headache. When a stroke is identified, diagnostic testing can determine whether the patient is a candidate for lifesaving treatment protocols like tPA.

What Is tPA?

Short for tissue plasminogen activator, tPA is a drug used to break up blood clots. However, strokes are caused by any interruption of the blood supply. The interruption can be either hemorrhagic (caused by bleeding) or ischemic (caused by a clot). Hemorrhagic stroke patients are not candidates for tPA, which is why it cannot be safely used as an automatic treatment protocol. Emergency physicians must first perform a CT scan to determine the type of stroke the patient is suffering.

Unfortunately, tPA has a very short window of effectiveness and is only estimated to be useful 30 percent of the time. The longer brain cells are deprived of essential blood flow, the greater the likelihood of permanent cell death. For this reason, failing to identify and treat an ischemic stroke with tPA can lead to severe consequences, including death. For survivors, long-term effects of stroke-related brain damage can include:

  • Impaired speech.
  • Weakness or paralysis of the limbs.
  • Difficulty holding things.
  • Cognitive impairments.

Identifying a Stroke

While stroke victims do not always present with clear symptoms, the diagnosis is more obvious in older patients with pre-existing health conditions. This is especially true if the patient presents with one of the primary risk factors of a stroke, which include:

  • High blood pressure.
  • Tobacco use.
  • Heart disease.
  • Diabetes.

However, younger and healthier patients may present with milder symptoms. In these cases, it can be challenging to recognize a stroke without obtaining a complete medical history. 

When a stroke is suspected, emergency medical physicians should investigate whether vertebral artery dissection (VAD) is a possible cause. VAD is an injury that can result from even slight neck strain. This flap-like tear of the vertebral artery’s inner lining causes blood to accumulate and clot. If a piece of the clot breaks off, it can travel up the artery and prevent blood flow to the brain. VAD can be caused by blunt trauma or by more subtle injuries, including:

  • Whiplash.
  • Chiropractic manipulation.
  • Aggressive sports.
  • Strangulation.
  • Severe respiratory infections.

Emergency Room Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a physician’s failure to conform to leading medical standards causes patient harm. For a stroke, the standard of care requires emergency medical physicians to timely diagnose and treat the condition with available protocols like tPA.

Any delay in diagnosis or misdiagnosis can cause significant damages. Aside from the obvious medical bills and pain and suffering, patients may be left permanently disabled. Many stroke victims require life-long home care, as well as physical and speech therapy. Complications following a stroke can also diminish a patient’s ability to earn a living and enjoy a quality of life. 

To successfully bring a claim for medical malpractice following a failed tPA protocol, an expert witness will need to testify on the patient’s behalf. A winning testimony will claim that if tPA had been timely administered, the patient would likely have made a full or at least partial recovery.

We Can Help

Suffering a stroke is an extremely traumatic experience. If you suspect medical malpractice may have contributed to your injuries, it can be difficult to know where to turn.

Our firm has helped countless stroke patients and other malpractice victims recover their losses. We have decades of experience holding negligent physicians and hospitals accountable. While nothing can undo an injury’s damage, the compensation offered through medical malpractice lawsuits can be of great help to patients on their roads to recovery.

To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today for a free consultation.

Richard D. Fox

View all posts by
Richard D. Fox

Richard Fox handles personal injury cases, including birth trauma, medical malpractice, and motor vehicle negligence. Throughout his career, which has spanned over 45 years, Rick has successfully represented clients in medical negligence and other personal injury claims.