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Emergency departments are failing to diagnose strokes

Many Americans are familiar with certain common signs of heart attack. For example, intense chest pain and left arm pain will likely cause many Americans to suspect that they may be having a heart attack. However, stroke symptoms are not always so straightforward. In fact, stroke symptoms can be so misleading that even physicians somewhat regularly commit emergency room errors in misdiagnosing strokes.

According to a new retrospective study recently published in the journal Diagnosis, more than 12 percent of stroke admissions analyzed were linked to a visit to the emergency room within 30 days of admission. Each of these emergency room visits resulted in a diagnosis indicating that the emergency room physicians had potentially missed a stroke occurring right before or during the emergency room visit.

Instead of properly being diagnosed as stroke patients, these individuals were diagnosed with dizziness or headaches that the researchers believe were probable misdiagnosed strokes, given the patients’ circumstances. Certain populations at an elevated risk for a missed stroke include women, minorities and individuals younger than 45-years-old.

An undiagnosed stroke can result in a host of negative consequences. Even though stroke symptoms are sometimes hard to distinguish, physicians are required to give potential stroke victims a certain level of care in their diagnostic and treatment processes. When physicians adhere to these standards of care, strokes are rarely missed.

Physicians who are negligent in misdiagnosing strokes may be held accountable for that negligence. If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of a missed stroke, please contact an attorney to explore your legal options.

Source: MedPage Today, “Stroke Rounds: Early Signs of Stroke Missed in Many Cases,” Todd Neale, April 8, 2014

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