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Failing to diagnose stroke leads to severe damage

Emergency room physicians must have the abilities to quickly and accurately diagnose their critically ill patients. In the case of cerebral vascular accidents (CVA), more commonly known as strokes, this is even more vital. There is a "golden hour" after the onset of a stroke where treatment rendered is much more effective in limiting future damage. Miss it, and the outcome may not be optimum.

Consider the below hypothetical case in another state and a response from an expert witness:

A woman showed up at the emergency room (ER) exhibiting classic symptoms and signs of a CVA — unilateral weakness, dizziness and slurred speech.

After a considerable wait in the ER, she eventually was examined by a neurologist, who ordered an MRI that confirmed the diagnosis. The patient was transferred to another nursing unit but continued to decline.

She was later discharged with extensive neurological impairment. Going forward, she will need to be maintained on high levels of supportive care.

The case allegedly involves negligence by the hospital staff to appropriately and timely address the patient's clear signs of stroke within the golden treatment hour.

In this case, the expert witness explained that suspected stroke patients presenting in under five hours of the onset of symptoms should receive aggressive treatment like tPA to reduce damage. The witness also stressed that such would be the case even if the patient had a high glucose level.

Medicine is not an exact science and outcomes cannot always be accurately predicted. But there is a standard of care that must be met or exceeded. When that standard of care falls short and a patient suffers because of it, it might be possible to pursue a claim for damages based on medical malpractice.

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