The use of clot busters (also called “thrombolytics”) — medications used to break up clots that block the flow of blood to the brain — are even more effective in treating stroke in younger patients than elderly ones, according to a new report. The medication is designed to dissolve clots that occur with thromboembolic stroke and thereby restore blood flow to the brain. However, younger people are more likely to be misdiagnosed which can prevent this time-sensitive treatment from being used.
Stroke affects 700,000 Americans each year. Strokes can occur in patients of any age, though the incidence increases with age like many other diseases. When strokes occur as a result of clots (as opposed to hemorrhagic strokes that occur due to bleeding in the brain), treatment must be introduced promptly for two key reasons. First, if blood flow is not promptly restored, brain tissue dies and never recovers. In this regard, “time lost is brain lost” and “time is brain” have been mantras of the American Stroke Association and the American Heart Association for years. Second, clot busting medications must be instituted within hours of a stroke in order to be effective and cause more good than harm.
A delay in diagnosis or treatment of stroke can be the basis for a medical negligence claim under Ohio law. When a physician or emergency department fails to institute proper procedures to quickly diagnose stroke, the patient may lose out on the opportunity for brain-saving treatment. Stroke can be a devastating occurrence. In fact, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
In 1996, the FDA approved the use of thrombolytics to dissolve stroke-causing clots. This development revolutionized stroke therapy. A 2012 report in the Journal Watch Emergency Medicine reports that patients between the ages of 18-50 have the best outcomes after thrombolytic therapy. Unfortunately, they are more likely to be misdiagnosed because of their young age and the fact that their strokes are more likely to be caused by nontypical causes of stroke. When physicians properly use a differential method of diagnosis, as all are trained to do, delays in diagnosis of stroke should not occur for these reasons since the signs and symptoms of stroke do not vary with age.