A recent study in Neurology shows that stroke rates are increasing among younger patients. This is concerning, not just a trend in public health, but also in terms of a risk for substandard medical care and medical malpractice claims. When diseases and medical conditions that are typically seen in older patients begin affecting younger patients, the risk of a delay in diagnosis increases. We have seen this in breast cancer cases. I suspect the trend will continue with cases involving malignant melanoma, heart disease and, now, stroke.
The Neurology article cites growing rates of obesity as increasing the risk of stroke in young adults. Obesity is a public health crisis that will ultimately overwhelm our health care system. Our current health care system cannot keep up with the growing costs associated with diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure and other obesity-related problems. Medical providers have been lax in providing preventative care. And, the 45 million Americans who lack health coverage cannot even afford preventative care. Meanwhile, corporate profiteers continue to saturate food markets with cheap processed food laden with obesity-inducing sugars. Due to inaction, complications of obesity, like stroke, are affecting younger and younger patients.
Physicians are prone to biased decisionmaking when it comes to young patients who present with diseases that are associated with old age. So, when a young patient presents with obvious signs or symptoms of stroke, the physician may attempt to attribute these abnormalities to hysteria, a transient condition or some other benign problem. However, delayed diagnosis, and the resulting delay in treatment, of stroke can have devastating consequences. For example, if early warning signs of stroke, called transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), are ignored, the patient can be deprived of anticoagulants that may prevent a progression to full-blown stroke. Likewise, if there is a delay in recognition of a stroke, the window of opportunity for using clot-busting medications (thrombolytics) may close.
Under Ohio law, when there is a delay in diagnosing stroke, there may be grounds for filing a medical negligence claim. An Ohio medical negligence lawyer will have to carefully review medical records to determine if red flags were overlooked. When strokes occurs under these circumstances, and treatment denied as a result, the damages are typically enormous, particularly when the stroke impacts a younger patient who then faces a lifetime of dependence on others for care.