According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 130,000 Americans will suffer from a stroke each year. One in 20 deaths in the United States is stroke-related. Strokes are also the leading cause of serious long-term disabilities in adults.
If a patient is not diagnosed and treated quickly after experiencing a stroke, his odds of a successful recovery greatly diminish. This is why medical malpractice claims are common among stroke patients.
Different Types of Strokes
There are two types of strokes: ischemic strokes and hemorrhagic strokes. The following is a brief overview:
- Ischemic strokes occur when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. Typically, this is because plaque has built up in the blood vessel. About 80 percent of strokes are ischemic.
- Hemorrhagic strokes involve a blood vessel in the brain that has ruptured and is leaking blood into brain tissue. Roughly 20 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic.
Stroke Risk Factors
Your risk of developing a stroke depends on several factors. The following are just a few examples:
- Age: Most people who have strokes are 55 years old or older, although younger people can have a stroke if other risk factors are present.
- Race: African American adults are twice as likely to have a stroke as their white counterparts.
- Gender: Women have more strokes than men and are more likely to die from a stroke.
- Smoking: Smokers also face a greater stroke risk compared to those who don't use tobacco products.
- Oral contraceptive use: In women, using birth control pills increases the risk of a stroke. The risk is even higher when a woman also smokes.
- Cardiac risk factors: People who have been diagnosed with high cholesterol or high blood pressure have a drastically increased rate of developing a stroke.
- Past medical history: Roughly 25 percent of people who experience strokes have already suffered a past stroke.
- Alcohol and drug use: People who abuse drugs and alcohol are more likely to suffer a stroke, even after other risk factors are taken into consideration.
Diagnosing a Stroke
Strokes can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms often overlap with a number of other medical conditions. Someone who is having a stroke might experience:
- A sudden painful headache
- Blurred vision
- Weakness or numbness in the face, arms, or legs
- Impaired speech
- Mental confusion
- Problems walking
- General loss of coordination
Since a stroke affects the brain, someone who is in need of assistance may have trouble communicating his symptoms to a care provider. A doctor who suspects a patient has suffered from a stroke should perform a detailed physical exam that includes:
- Asking simple questions to judge speech, memory, and thought processes
- Checking reflexes
- Evaluating pulse and blood pressure
- Listening to heart and lungs
- Ordering a CT scan or MRI
Consequences of Medical Malpractice in a Stroke Case
Failing to diagnose a stroke or misdiagnosing a stroke as a less serious condition can have disastrous consequences. It's estimated that two million brain cells die per minute when a patient is having a stroke. A protein involved in the breakdown of blood clots is known as the tissue plasminogen activator and it can be given to a patient to improve the chances of a successful recovery. However, the medication needs to be given to the patient within three hours of the stroke beginning.
Depending upon the particular circumstances of the case, a stroke patient may also have a malpractice claim relating to improper discharge, incorrect treatment, or inadequate medication.
In order to win a stroke related malpractice case, you must prove four key elements:
- The stoke patient and his care provider had a doctor-patient relationship.
- The patient’s diagnosis and treatment was negligent according to the accepted standards of care for stroke patients.
- The doctor’s negligence is the cause of the stroke-related impairment.
- The stroke-related impairment led to specific damages, such as added medical costs, lost wages, or the need for ongoing home health services due to a permanent disability.
To prove negligence and causation, expert testimony will be required from a healthcare provider with extensive experience treating stroke patients. If you opt to pursue a malpractice claim, you'll want to work with a skilled attorney who has the connections necessary to locate experts to testify on your behalf.
Victims of stroke-related medical malpractice who received treatment at any local facility in the Inland Empire can turn to the Inland Empire Law Group for assistance in receiving the compensation they need to move forward with their lives. Please call us at (888) MY IE LAW to learn more.