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Failure to Diagnose Stroke

Failure to Diagnose Stroke

Failure to Diagnose Stroke

Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and long-term disability in the United States. According to the American Stroke Association, 700,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year. The indirect costs of stroke cost over $50 billion in the United States in 2004.

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

If a patient presents to a physician or emergency room with one or more of these symptoms and no testing is done to determine whether the patient is suffering from a stroke, the patient may have a medical malpractice claim.

In treating patients who present with symptoms consistent with a stroke, physicians are required to assess a patient’s risk factors for stroke to determine whether further testing is advisable. Some stroke risk factors that physicians should inquire about are: high blood pressure, tobacco use, diabetes mellitus, carotid artery disease, atrial fibrillation, transient ischemic attacks, obesity, high cholesterol, age, heredity, and prior heart attack or stroke. If a physician treats a patient with stroke symptoms and fails to inquire about risk factors, the failure could be evidence of malpractice. Likewise, if a physician treating a patient who presents with stroke symptoms inquires about relevant risk factors and fails to perform tests to rule out a stroke, that failure could be evidence of malpractice.

The damages recoverable for the failure to diagnose a stroke depend on when the stroke occurred relative to the patient presenting to the physician or hospital. If a patient has suffered a stroke prior to seeking medical attention and a physician negligently fails to diagnose the prior stroke, the physician would only be liable for the damages that resulted from the delayed diagnosis. On the other hand, if a patient presents at the emergency room in the very early stages of a stroke, the treating physician could be liable for all of the patient’s injuries if the failure to diagnose a stroke occurred before the patient suffered any injury.

Copyright 2014 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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