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Why do doctors misdiagnose strokes?

On Behalf of | Aug 21, 2023 | Failure to Diagnose |

A stroke is a medical emergency that can lead to brain damage. A stroke is thought to happen to someone in the United States every 40 seconds, and someone is likely to die from a stroke every 3 minutes and 14 seconds, affecting over 800,000 people a year. 

Unfortunately, not all stroke cases receive a proper diagnosis. Misdiagnosis of strokes can result in death and lasting impairments if left untreated. Here are two kinds of strokes and how they are frequently misunderstood:

Ischemic stroke

An ischemic stroke is the most common kind of stroke and happens when a blood clot or another obstruction prevents blood flow to the brain. It causes about 80% of strokes. An ischemic stroke can cause numbness, confusion, seeing and walking impairment and severe headaches. 

Hemorrhagic stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel starts to leak or rupture in the brain, which can also occur during a brain aneurysm. People above 65 years of age are more likely to develop hemorrhagic strokes than others. Diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and obesity are also likely causes of hemorrhagic strokes.

Why it’s hard for medical experts to spot a stroke

Misdiagnosis often happens because symptoms of medical conditions may mimic other illnesses. For example, headaches and dizziness are common stroke symptoms that can occur for many other reasons. Many medical providers will send the patient home without performing the necessary testing required to evaluate whether the headaches are stroke-related or not.

A stroke can be crippling and life-threatening if someone is sent home instead of receiving the treatment they need. Missing the warning signals of a stroke can have fatal consequences. Victims of misdiagnosis or their loved ones may need to understand their legal rights so they can receive the compensation they deserve.