Misdiagnosis – Stroke

Stroke Misdiagnosis - Medical Malpractice Attorney Sacramento, CA

Jonathan had been working as a project manager for a major development company for the past three years.  He was in the prime of his life, his early 30s, and felt elated at the future ahead of him. 

One afternoon while on his lunch break, Jonathan began suffering an onslaught of disturbing symptoms.  He was unable to speak clearly, had difficulty walking and had a major headache - all classic symptoms of a stroke. 

He was taken by ambulance to his local hospital.  Although all classic symptoms of a stroke were present, his treating physicians diagnosed him with food poisoning as he had been eating a piece of chocolate cake when the symptoms presented themselves. 

Although still unable to walk or talk coherently, hospital doctors discharged Jonathan and sent him home.  With the stroke undiagnosed and untreated, Jonathan wound up sustained permanent brain damage.  He has been unable to return to work due to cognitive impairment, the inability to multi-task and memory loss.  

The above scenario is based on a true story and provides a great example of the harm that can come from a misdiagnosis of a stroke.  Medical malpractice lawsuits result from a vast variety of negligent or careless mistakes from doctors, nurses, or a medical center.  A misdiagnosis such as this one can cause irreparable damage and even death that otherwise would have not occurred.   

A stroke can start with anything from a mild episode to something more severe with devastating effects. It can lead to a permanently abridged mental capability and even death. How fast the patient receives treatment is the primary factor in how severe a stroke's effects will be.

Many patients don’t realize that as many as 20% of strokes are misdiagnosed. Misdiagnosis leads to a delay in proper treatment. When such a mistake is made, a patient (or a deceased patient’s family) may be able to sue a doctor for medical malpractice.

A stroke is a sudden interruption of blood flow to part of the brain. Timing is vital in stroke diagnosis because the longer the brain cells are deprived of blood, the more blood cells will die.

Symptoms of a stroke:

  • Numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in the face, arm, or leg, specifically on only one side of the body
  • Abrupt vision changes
  • Unexpected problems speaking
  • Confusion or trouble understanding simple statements abruptly
  • Problems with walking or balance
  • Abrupt, severe headaches

Medical professional who suspect a stroke will most often order a CT scan of the brain and possibly an MRI test as well. These types of tests will reveal whether a patient is suffering from a stroke and what type of stroke it is. A doctor may order supplementary tests to determine the cause of the stroke.

There are two types of strokes: ischemic which are caused by a blood clot and hemorrhagic which are caused by internal bleeding. It is very important for a doctor to not only quickly determine whether a patient is suffering from a stroke, but also to determine the type of stroke. The medication for one type of stroke can negatively affect a patient suffering from the other type of stroke.

A doctor can still misdiagnose a patient with stroke symptoms even after imaging tests have been conducted. A misdiagnosis can be classified as either failing to properly determine the type of stroke, or as diagnosing a stroke as some other malady. Below are issues that may be challenging to distinguish from a stroke, upon early diagnosis:

Hypoglycemia  Defined as a patient with dangerously low blood sugar/glucose level, hypoglycemia can cause symptoms very analogous to those related to a stroke. However, a doctor should be able to decide whether hypoglycemia is causing the indicators quickly by testing the patient’s glucose level.

Tumor Cancerous or not, a brain tumor can cause symptoms that imitate a stroke. The main difference is that tumor symptoms are inclined to increase gradually in severity as the tumor grows. However, with a stroke, symptoms tend to present themselves suddenly and acutely. This distinction is of little use to a doctor when a patient arrives to the clinic having lost consciousness.

Seizures  Seizures and post-seizure events will cause alterations in the brains functions that impersonate the symptoms of a stroke. If a doctor sees the seizure or is aware of a history of seizures, she may be more likely to identify a stroke as a seizure-related diminishing of brain functionality.

The main means of distinguishing stroke symptoms from other ailments is the brain imaging tests, like the CT Scan and MRI. Because the images are not always conclusive, medical staff can make mistakes even after the proper tests have been performed.

Proving Misdiagnosis Leads to Malpractice

Assessing patients who present a latent health problem, medical staff perform what is called a differential diagnosis, meaning making a list of likely medical conditions that could be the cause of the symptoms, guiding a sequence of tests, then ruling out various conditions that do not match up to test results, until a conclusive diagnosis can be determined.

In order to hold any doctor or medical professional legally liable for medical malpractice, the patient (through his or her counsel and a retained professional medical expert witness) shows how the doctor digressed from the conventional medical standard of care in conducting the differential diagnosis -- first by walking the jury through a reasonably skilled physician’s treatment plan under similar circumstances, then demonstrating how the doctor’s elected course of treatment in the case failed to meet that standard. Learn more about misdiagnosis medical malpractice cases and the medical standard of care.

Call Us Today For Help: (800) 426-5546

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to a misdiagnosis, please call us at the Law Offices of Moseley Collins.  Moseley specializes in winning medical malpractice cases in the cities of Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Palm Springs.  He has over 40 years of experience and has recently won a medical malpractice case that resulted in the largest settlement of its kind in the history of California.  Call Moseley today for help.

Moseley Collins
980 9th St, 16th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 444-4444


Client Reviews
"When I was injured I felt truly hopeless. I didn't know where to turn when I was released from the hospital. Luckily, I remembered your phone number and I called you. You won a nice settlement for me. Thank you!" Charles T.
"May God bless you always, Moseley and your wonderful staff. You all were there for us when we needed it most. We are forever grateful." Tina N.
"Everyone at the law firm was helpful, considerate and courteous. I would highly recommend Moseley Collins. Thank you so much." Robyn D.