Stroke (also called “cerebral vascular accident” or CVA) is often viewed as a disease of older adults. However, I just watched a panel discussion by three prominent stroke experts that points to a trend towards CVAs occurring in younger patients, particularly aged 35-65. More importantly, for purposes of assessing medical malpractice claims, many of these CVAs are preventable with proper medical care or their affects can be minimized with prompt intervention.
The increasing rate of CVAs in younger patients is, according to one of the experts, an “alarming trend.” The rate may double over the next several years. The trend can be explained by well-known risk factors in the community, including increasing rates of diabetes, hypertension, obesity among younger people. Oral contraceptives also are a risk factor, particularly in smokers. There has also been an increase in CVAs due to dissection related to trauma, like a car accident (typically from the seat belt) or sports-related neck injury. CVAs may also occur in younger patients due to cardioembolic causes like atrial fibrillation (A Fib) and patent foramen ovale (PFO). Hypertension in pregnancy also increases the risk for
There are also some genetic mutations that are associated with an increased risk of CVA. These include cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leucoencephalapthy (CADASIL), Maeda syndrome (CARASIL), Moya Moya disease, Fabry disease, Sickle Cell Anemia, homocysteinuria, MELAS disorder, Marfan syndrome, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Stroke caused by these syndromes will usually occur before the age of 40.
Treatment and prevention of stroke depends upon physicians recognizing risk factors and family history that put patients at increased risk. Also, when younger patients present with signs of stroke, the doctor cannot ignore those symptoms simply because the patient is young. Stroke does not only occur in older people. With early recognition of risk factors, many strokes can be prevented by appropriate preventative measures. When stroke occurs, its affects can often be minimized or eradicated with prompt recognition (see my earlier blog about the F.A.S.T. program) and treatment.
My passion for handling medical negligence cases across Ohio that involve stroke arises out of having represented many Ohioans who have endured a life changing CVA that could have been prevented with proper medical care. I have seen firsthand the devastation this condition has caused to patients and their families. I have also seen senseless delays in diagnosis and treatment by healthcare professionals, including the failure to recognize obvious signs of the condition in a younger patient.