Doctors and nurses are busy people who work long hours. Hospitals are stressful environments that put even the most accomplished medical professionals under pressure. They occasionally make mistakes. A missed stroke in Maryland is a serious mistake with life-altering consequences for the patient. It occurs more often than many people think.
When a medical professional fails to diagnose a stroke, the consequences are usually serious for the patient and his or her family. If your family member suffered a stroke that showed early signs and symptoms missed by a doctor or other medical professional, keep reading from our Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer Randolph Rice for more information on what you can do.
How Common Are Strokes in Maryland?
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, states the Internet Stroke Center. More than 140,000 people die of stroke every year.
Every year, about 795,000 people suffer from a stroke in the United States. About 600,000 of these are first-time attacks. The American Heart Association states strokes are the third-highest cause of death in Maryland. They account for about 5 percent of fatalities. About 2,300 people die every year after suffering a stroke in Maryland.
Many more people who suffer strokes survive but experience serious health problems like difficulty walking, paralysis, blurred vision, or coordination problems. These conditions are often permanent.
What Causes a Stroke?
A stroke is caused when part of the brain loses its blood supply and stops working properly, stopping the body functioning. Strokes are also called is called cerebrovascular accidents, CVA, or “brain attacks.” There are two types of strokes, states Medicinenet:
- An Ischemic stroke – part of the brain loses blood flow
- A hemorrhagic stroke – bleeding takes place within the brain.
Another form of stroke is a transient ischemic attack, TIA or a mini-stroke. The symptoms typically clear up in minutes. However, a TIA is often a sign that a more serious stroke will occur in the future. Half of all strokes follow a TIA in a matter of days. Always seek medical treatment if you or a family member suffer these symptoms.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to dismiss them for something less serious. Medical professionals in Maryland have ignored obvious signs of a stroke taking place like paralysis to one side of a patient’s body. More commonly, the temporary, non-disabling conditions of a “mini-stroke” or “pre-stroke” have been ignored.
Often a TIA (transient ischemic attack) is the precursor to a catastrophic bleed or clot in the brain that causes permanent disability just days later without the right treatment. Strokes are life-altering events. If you or a family member failed to receive the right treatment with terrible consequences, we want to hear from you.
Common Warning Signs of a Stroke
The telltale signs of a stroke include:
- Weakness in the arms
- Speech difficulties
- Face drooping.
- Headaches and dizziness.
If you recognize these signs, call 911 as soon as possible. Doctors and nurses should recognize the signs of a stroke, be aware of the seriousness, and take immediate action. Sadly, this is not always the case.
Why Medical Professionals Miss the Signs of a Stroke in Maryland
Although the signs of a stroke may seem fairly obvious, doctors and nurses often miss them. The symptoms of a stroke can come and go. Doctors can attribute the headaches and dizziness to a less serious condition than a stroke, causing misdiagnosis injuries in patients.
Competent doctors should know the difference between a normal headache and those associated with a transient ischemic attack and the likely onset of a stroke. Unfortunately, too many doctors and nurses in Maryland and elsewhere want to move on to the next patient and dismiss potentially life-threatening conditions associated with a stroke.
Is the Emergency Room Responsible for Missed Stroke in Maryland?
Although the ER should take patient concerns seriously, there are many instances of doctors and nurses missing the signs of a stroke in the emergency room.
A woman from Prince George’s County filed a case in 2017 against University of Maryland Laurel Regional Hospital. She was taken via ambulance to Bowie Health Center. Her family reported symptoms including vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea after eating. She was transferred to Laurel Regional Hospital.
When she was at the hospital, the woman told her daughter she could not feel her left leg. Her daughter gave this information to nurses. The woman also told the medical staff about the issue. The hospital failed to act on this obvious stroke symptom for 8 hours.
The failure of the hospital to follow stroke protocol meant the woman lost the ability to walk and care for herself. A medical malpractice lawsuit was filed against the hospital and the nurses.
A team from Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University found E.R. doctors often miss the early signs of stroke in women, minorities, and younger people. The findings of a medical records review, reported in the journal Diagnosis, found that minorities, women, and people under the age of 45 who showed up at the emergency room with the initial symptoms of stroke were more likely to be misdiagnosed in the week before they suffered a debilitating stroke.
Younger people were almost seven times more likely to be given a wrong diagnosis and sent home without treatment despite showing the telltale symptoms. The authors concluded about 50,000 to 100,000 stokes are missed every year by medical professionals in the United States.
Example of a Missed Stroke Injury Case
In 2019, the New Jersey Law Journal reported on how a $5.1 million settlement was reached in the case of Ryan v. Shih. Patricia O’Brien, a 53-year-old patient, was brought to Morristown Medical Center suffering from confusion, incoherence, and shortness of breath. These are classic symptoms of a stroke but doctors and nurses failed to pick up on them.
The patient was initially seen by a doctor two hours after arriving at the hospital and placed under psychiatric observation. Her condition deteriorated. O’Brien’s family members told doctors they believed she was having a stroke. She was sent for a CT scan six hours after arrival at the hospital. O’Brien was then diagnosed with bleeding and fluid retention on the brain. She was sent off to another hospital for treatment.
The patient once worked as a driver for the disabled. Now she is incapacitated herself. She suffered severe cognitive damage because of the delays in treatment at the hospital and now lives in a group home where she requires 24-hour supervision.
This a harrowing example of how a missed or delayed stroke diagnosis can ruin a patient’s life. You can file a lawsuit for a missed stroke in Maryland. However, even if the patient received a settlement like the $5.1 million O’Brien received from two nurses and a first-year resident physician, it does not make up for the loss of the quality of life suffered by the patient. Given the common nature of strokes in older people, the many instances of hospital misdiagnosis in Maryland are alarming.
Talk to a Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyer About a Missed Stroke in Maryland
When medical professionals miss the signs of a stroke, the consequences are devastating for patients and their families. Any properly-trained doctor or nurse should be aware of the signs. People who suffer strokes often lose their mobility and their ability to live independently. It’s tragic to know a medical professional could have saved your family member from suffering but ignored the telltale signs of a stroke.
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, our Baltimore personal injury lawyer will carefully examine your case. You may have grounds to sue a doctor, a nurse or a hospital over a missed stroke in Maryland. Please call us at 410-431-0911.