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As lawyers who focus a large part of our practice on representing victims of stroke, we continue to marvel at the wide variety of preventable strokes.

Last month an Ohio jury returned an $11 million verdict in favor of a married mother of three who suffered a stroke while pregnant with the family’s fourth child. According to the allegations in the lawsuit, the woman began to exhibit the warning signs of stroke during her twenty-sixth week of pregnancy. Unfortunately, the physician “on call” for her usual treating doctor misdiagnosed her symptoms as a gastric condition and discouraged her from seeking emergency care. While the stroke left the woman with permanent neurological deficits, her premature baby survived the preventable catastrophe.

Pregnant women and stroke

While it is uncommon for a pregnant woman to suffer a stroke, pregnancy places women at a higher risk of stroke. High blood pressure related to pregnancy is the leading cause of hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding within the brain) and ischemic stroke (lack of blood flow to the brain) in women. Additionally, pregnancy induced hypertension increases the risk of preeclampsia/eclampsia and stroke in women.

This case, and many like it, emphasize the need for everyone to identify the closest Comprehensive Stroke Center to their homes so they can seek immediate stroke care as soon as symptoms are perceived. Comprehensive Stroke Centers have interdisciplenary teams with multiple specialists and established stroke protocols that use advanced therapies and treatments to treat stroke.

Warning signs of stroke

It’s important to know the warning signs and symptoms of stroke. They vary and include the sudden onset of one or more of these symptoms:

  • Facial drooping (particularly on one of the face side)
  • Numbness and/or weakness of one side of the body (particularly involving an arm)
  • Difficulty speaking (slurred speech, inability to find words, confusion)
  • Vision problems (e.g., blindness, double vision)
  • Dizziness, trouble walking, loss of balance, lack of coordination
  • A severe headache, with no known cause

Knowing the signs of stroke and where to go if experiencing symptoms could make the difference of a more favorable outcome.

Matt Sowell is the founding chairman of the Stroke Litigation Group, American Association for Justice. He is frequently consulted and co-counseled by other law firms on complex medical malpractice matters involving cardio­vascular, neurovascular and birth injuries. Matt has litigated numerous medical malpractice cases involving stroke including: failure to timely diagnose stroke, stroke following failure to workup TIA, failure to timely administer clot busting medicine, stroke caused by failure to antico­agulate, misdi­agnosis of stroke symptoms, and stroke caused by cerebrovascular injuries.