Strokes (also known as brain attacks, ischemic attacks, cerebral vascular accidents or CVAs) are a major source of death and disability in the U.S. The American Stroke Association and the American Heart Association have taken great strides to educate Americans about the signs of an ischemic attack, so that patients can promptly avail themselves of time-sensitive treatments. The major treatments for CVA include medicine and surgery. Medicine, in the form of the clot-busting drug known as tPA, must be administered within the first few hours of the onset of symptoms of ischemia, such as facial droop and one-sided arm or leg weakness. Surgery, in the form of a thromboembolectomy, wherein clot is removed via catheter, has similar time constraints.
Delay in Diagnosis of Stroke
Under Ohio law, a delay in diagnosis or treatment of stroke may serve a basis for a medical malpractice claim. The party suing must prove that the delay was negligent, and also that earlier treatment would have reversed symptoms and restored blood flow to the brain before permanent damage occurred. The latter issue is called “causation” and it is an important consideration in all medical negligence cases, but particularly so in delayed diagnosis cases.
In Ohio, a plaintiff is required to prove that it is more probably than not (or, greater than 50% likelihood) that earlier treatment would have made a difference. There is some controversy in the area of brain attacks as to when early treatment likely makes a difference. Current medical literature shows that the likelihood of a good outcome from early treatment depends on certain factors, such as the patient’s age, whether the patient had a prior stroke and whether treatment is started within 90 minutes of the onset of symptoms. A more recent study shows that thromboembolectomy provides better results than clot-busting medications. You can read more here.
In addition to cases arising out of delays in diagnosis, cases may also arise out of the failure to take preventative measures. As we all know, “prevention is the best cure.” Anticoagulation medicines (e.g., Coumadin) and antiplatelet medicines (e.g., aspirin) can be given to prevent clot formation in certain high risk patients.
In short, when investigating a delay in diagnosis and treatment of stroke symptoms, careful attention must be paid to causation factors before filing a lawsuit. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can analyze case facts to determine if a claim is meritorious, i.e., whether sufficient evidence exists to prove the case.