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Hospitals Often Fail to Diagnose Stroke in Younger Stroke Victims

According to a recent study presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference of 2009, young adults with stroke symptoms are frequently misdiagnosed in Hospital emergency rooms.  As a result, these young people miss out on effective early stroke treatment.

In the study, researchers reviewed data on 57 patients, aged 16 to 50 years old, enrolled since 2001 in the Young Stroke Registry at the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI.  Four males and four females (14 percent), average age 34, were misdiagnosed as having vertigo, migraine, alcohol intoxication or other conditions. They were discharged from the hospital and later discovered to have suffered a stroke. Those misdiagnosed included:

  • an 18-year-old man who reported numbness on his left side but was diagnosed with alcohol intoxication;
  • a 37-year-old woman who arrived with difficulty speaking and was diagnosed with a seizure;
  • a 48-year-old woman with sudden blurred vision, an off-balance walk, lack of muscle coordination, difficulty speaking and weakness in her left hand, who was told she had an inner ear disorder.

"Accurate diagnosis of stroke on initial presentation in young adults can reduce the number of patients who have continued paralysis and continued speech problems," said Seemant Chaturvedi, M.D., senior author of the study and a professor of neurology and director of the stroke program at Wayne State.  "We have seen several young patients who presented to emergency rooms with stroke-like symptoms within three to six hours of symptom onset, and these patients did not get proper treatment due to misdiagnosis. The first hours are really critical."

Intravenous delivery of the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is the only U.S. government-approved treatment for acute stroke. It must be delivered within three hours of symptom onset to reduce permanent disability caused by stroke.

If you or someone you love suffered injury or death because of delay in the diagnosis or treatment of stroke, you should contact the lawyers at Berger & Lagnese for a free consultation.  The lawyers at Berger & Lagnese specialize in medical malpractice cases involving the failure to diagnose and treat medical conditions such as stroke.