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Delay in diagnosing a stroke affects outcome

Illinois residents may know that an appropriate and timely diagnosis of a stroke is vital for a good prognosis. A 2009 study by the American Stroke Association confirmed that misdiagnosis of strokes in individuals under 50 may occur, causing delays in treatment.

Stroke symptoms may include dizziness, balance and coordination problems, headache, weakness or numbness, particularly on one side, vision problems and confusion. Stroke is a top cause of disability and the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Clot busters are commonly used to treat a stroke within the first few hours and, according to the director of the Wayne State stroke program, may help to avoid permanent disability.

Research was conducted in 2009 on 50 patients between the ages of 16 and 50 who had a stroke and presented to the emergency room. Eight were incorrectly given diagnoses ranging from seizure, intoxication, inner ear disease and migraine. According to the report, missing the critical treatment window for a stroke may result in prolonged problems with speech and paralysis. Minor symptoms such as nausea and vertigo should include stroke in the differential diagnosis. The FDA-approved drug for clot dissolution must be administered within three hours after onset for it to be effective. After 48 to 72 hours, medical intervention will not affect the outcome.

Medical misdiagnosis may affect patient outcome and cause serious financial repercussions, including lost wages, permanent disability and extensive hospitalization costs. Physicians who fail to properly diagnose a patient violates their duty to provide an appropriate standard of care. A misdiagnosed patient may benefit from consulting an attorney who has experience in medical malpractice. After reviewing medical records and obtaining expert opinion, the attorney may determine if a cause of action exists.

Source: Science Daily, "Young Adult Stroke Patients May Be Misdiagnosed In ER", October 31, 2014

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