Stroke Misdiagnosis Compensation Claims
Stroke is the 4th highest cause of death in the UK. Due to the seriousness of the condition, a late or misdiagnosis could result in serious brain damage.
Why are the symptoms of stroke often overlooked by doctors?
Because the symptoms of a stroke often appear vague or mild, GPs or specialists may initially determine that the patient simply has a headache or migraine.
However failure to diagnose and treat a potential stroke could have devastating consequences on the victim. The delay in treatment could result in brain damage, loss of mobility and loss of cognitive functions. These serious consequences could potentially leave the stroke victim requiring long-term care and rehabilitation.
Incidence of stroke in children and delayed or misdiagnosis
Although the majority of stoke victims are aged 65 and above, 1 in 150 stokes occurs in young people under 20. Although strokes are much less prevalent in children, the statistics are not insignificant.
However research by conducted by the Stroke Association made two important findings with regard to awareness of stokes in younger patients:
- “Diagnosis of arterial ischaemic stroke (AIS) in children is delayed at every stage of healthcare assessment”.
- The routine early use of MRI scans in children with suspected ischaemic stroke (around half of childhood strokes are caused by a blood clot, as opposed to a bleed) “could significantly accelerate the process and improve outcomes”.
Based on the research, the lack of awareness in the medical profession and the subsequent delay in treatment in younger victims could result in significantly worse outcomes.
What is a stroke and what are the symptoms to be aware of?
A stroke is a life threatening medical condition where blood supply to part of the brain is cut off thereby preventing oxygen and nutrients being delivered to the cells. It is a life threatening medical emergency and requires urgent treatment.
There are two types of stroke: ischaemic and heamorrhagic.
In an ischaemic stroke the obstruction in the blood vessel is caused by a clot.
If the blockage is temporary or transient the condition is known as a ‘transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or a ‘mini-stroke’. The symptoms of a TIA may appear for a few minutes to a some hours afterwards. A TIA is also considered a medical emergency as it may be early warning sign of a potential stroke.
In a haemorrhagic stroke the loss of blood from a blood vessel(s) in the brain is caused by a weakness in the walls of the blood vessel(s)
The UK government has issued guidelines on the initial symptoms of stroke. This framework is commonly known as FAST.
Face: the face may have dropped to one side, there are eye(s) or mouth may have dropped
Arms: the person may not be able to move or raise one or both arms due to weakness or numbness
Speech: the speech may be slurred or garbled or they may not be able to speak at all
Time: Time to dial 999 to request urgent medical attention
If the symptom of the patient suggest a stroke or TIA then the following steps are commonly taken:
- The patient will be taken to a hospital, which contains a dedicated stroke unit, for further investigation and specialist treatment
- Once a stroke is confirmed, brain imaging will be considered – usually within 1 hour of diagnosis or within 24hours depending on the nature of the presenting symptoms and the time that has elapsed since the onset of the symptoms
- If the patient was determined to have experienced a TIA, they will be assessed for their risk of suffering a stroke. If they are deemed high risk then they will be given preventative treatment.
The importance of early specialist stroke treatment
A brain scan will reveal whether the stroke is ischaemic or haemorrhagic in nature.
The treatment of a stroke will be affected by the cause of the stroke, though both ischaemic and haemorrhagic strokes will require medication, which may prevent the situation from reoccurring. They will also need general medical care such as good hydration, blood pressure and blood sugar management.
Ischaemic strokes and thrombolysis treatment
Ischaemic strokes are often treated by thrombolysis which involves administration of aleplase, a medication which dissolves blood clots and restores blood supply to the brain. It is recommended that the treatment be adminstered as soon as possible after the onset of the symptoms and confirmed diagnosis.
Acccording to NICE guidelines, thrombolysis is appropriate within the first 4-5 hours of the onset of symptoms. However not all patients will be deemed suitable for this treatment or the treatment could be more complicated if:
- It is not clear when the symptoms first manifested eg. If the patient was asleep
- It is more than 4-5 hours of the onset of the symptoms
- The patient may have very high blood pressure
- The patient may have a bleeding disorder or recent surgery
- The patient may have suffered from a stroke or head injury within the last 3 months
- The patient may be taking medication which is not compatible with thrombolysis
Antiplatelets, Anticoagulents and Antihypertensives
Antiplatelets, such as asprin, are often prescribed in order to make the blood less ‘sticky’ or viscous. They are often used in conjunction with other treatments to prevent the risk of developing a stroke.
Anticoagulants are often prescribed as they have the effect of making the blood thinner in composition. Commonly prescribed drugs such as warfarin and heparin reduce the likelihood of a blood clot forming.
Surgery may be the required where ischemic strokes and TIAs have developed as a result of a narrowing of the carotid artery in the neck. The aim of the surgery would be to clear the build-up of fatty deposit’s and improve blood flow to the brain.
The consequences of a stroke and the potential long-term care and rehabilitation required
Half of all stoke survivors have a disability. Long-term care and rehabilitation may be required for the patient in order to improve and reduce the loss of function (physical and congnitive) resulting from the stroke. The rehabilitation program will focus on:
- Cognitive and emotional functioning
- Ability to commutate
- Ability to breath, swallow
- Ability to self-care
The severity of the brain damage will determine the complexity of the treatment and the rehabilitation plan. NICE guidelines recommend a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals and social care specialists to be involved in the rehabilitation plan of stroke victims. These include:
- Consultant physicians
- Occupation therapists
- Speech and language therapists
- Clinical psychologists
- Rehabilitation assistants
- Social workers
How to claim compensation for the delayed and misdiagnosis of a stroke
Our experienced medical negligence solicitors specialise in supporting stroke victims and their families. We take the time to understand your situation so that we can prepare a comprehensive stroke negligence claim and secure adequate compensation. This may involve assessing your future treatment and care needs as well as the costs associated with adapting your home, purchasing mobility aids and other supportive equipment.
Please contact a member of our team on 0333 123 9099. Alternatively, you can send an email with your name and contact information and brief details as to the nature of the stroke negligence claim and the injuries sustained to email@example.com or complete our online form.