Medical Malpractice Failure to Diagnose a Stroke: Physician Malpractice

  1. A medical problem known as a “stroke” occurs when the flow of blood to the brain is suddenly interrupted and brain cells die a quick death. It is an emergency medical condition that requires immediate attention. In many instances there are prior warnings that a stroke is likely to occur and those signs can be identified during a routine medical examination. A failure to diagnose a stroke due to the negligence of a doctor may arise to a level of medical malpractice.

    Types of Strokes

    Also called a “brain accident” or “cerebrovascular accident”, a stroke can result in paralysis, memory loss, speech impediments, logic and reasoning and even death. The most common type of stroke, an ischemic stroke, occurs when a blood clot occurs in one of the vessels that supplies blood to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes are caused when a blood vessel of the brain ruptures or leaks. Some experts have estimated that in 2011, about 200,000 people in the United States were disabled because of strokes and resulted in approximately 170,000 incidents of death. High blood pressure is a major cause of ischemic strokes.

    Diagnosing a Stroke and Identification of Symptoms

    Many people suffer a TIA (transient ischemic attack) or a “mini-stroke” before they suffer a full cerebrovascular accident. When a temporary reduction or blockage of the blood supply to the brain due to something like a clot, a TIA can occur. Many doctors estimate that a third of all people who have experienced a TIA will also suffer a stroke.

    A doctor who performs a medical examination on a patient using reasonable care should be able to discover the warning signs that a stroke is likely to occur. This includes a patient who experiences:
    • Difficult trying to speak or in understanding speech;
    • Numbness, tingling sensations, paralysis or weakness in parts of the body and most especially if these symptoms are experienced on one side;
    • Loss of consciousness;
    • A general sense of confusion;
    • Severe headache;
    • Diminished or loss of vision;
    • Loss of coordination, motor skills, balance or feelings of dizziness.
    It is extremely important for prompt action to be taken if a stroke is suspected. It is possible to carry out a CAT scan (Computed Tomography or CT Scan) to check for bleeding on the brain. If a stroke is detected early enough, it could be the difference between the patient living and dying.

    Steps to Take if You Suspect Medical Malpractice

    Nobody is perfect and diagnosing medical conditions is not always an easy task. But you may have a reasonable belief that a stroke you or a family member experienced could and should have been properly diagnosed. Perhaps you realized later that the clear warning signs of a mini-stroke were disregarded by a doctor, perhaps due to negligence or carelessness. If you're under the impression that this is the case, take careful notes of everything you remember recording the date, the people involved, the circumstances and what occurred. Most importantly, of course, you should have the victim seen by another physician as soon as possible to reverse or minimize the harm.

    You should call an experienced medical malpractice attorney soon after you suspect negligence by a doctor or hospital staff. Medical conditions can change quickly and your attorney can provide you with suggestions and recommendations in order to preserve evidence for a potential lawsuit.
    Health, Medical & Social:
    Failure to Diagnose

    Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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