Number one cause of long term disability
Stroke is the number one cause of long-term disability and the fourth leading cause of adult deaths in the United States, according the National Stroke Association.
A stroke happens when brain cells do not get the blood they need. With strokes, time is brain and time lost is brain lost. There is little time to restore blood flow and prevent brain cells from dying. The earlier a patient receives treatment, the more likely he or she will avoid permanent brain damage and disability.
Knowing the signs
The beginning of a stroke corresponds directly with the onset of its symptoms including slurred speech, numbness or weakness on one side of the body (especially an arm), dizziness, severe headache, trouble speaking, facial drooping and confusion.
Scenarios for increased risk
There are a numerous factors that are associated with an increased risk of stroke. Some of the more common ones are high blood pressure, smoking and obesity. Another common cause of stroke involves trauma to the arteries that supply blood to the brain – this has been seen in car wrecks, chiropractic manipulations, and improper positioning during surgery. Additionally, taking certain medications (e.g. birth control, testosterone) or coming off of anticoagulants can cause stroke.
Types of Strokes
An Ischemic Stroke is the most common; it most often occurs when a blockage (i.e. clot) develops in an artery that supplies blood to the brain. 87% of all strokes are ischemic.
A Hemorrhagic Stroke happens when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain; this accounts for 13% of strokes.
A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or “warning stroke” is caused by a temporary interruption of blood to the brain. The symptoms of a TIA’s may last a few minutes or up to 24 hours; however, TIA’s do not cause any permanent brain damage. A TIA is a common warning sign that a full blown stroke is about to happen. Patients who suffer a stroke after a TIA will usually do so within the first 48 hours of having a TIA.
At the first sign of a stroke symptom, it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention. Time is brain. If you are having a stroke, you want to give stroke professionals the opportunity to restore blood flow to the brain as quickly as possible. If the symptoms were caused by a TIA, you want to give stroke professionals the opportunity to quickly figure out what caused the TIA and prevent a full blown stroke from happening. Knowing in advance where to go for the best stroke care can improve the chances of favorable outcomes.
Primary v. Comprehensive Stroke Centers
A Primary Stroke Center will diagnose and stabilize the patient, often by administering medicine to break up the clot, before transferring the patient to a Comprehensive Stroke Center if more advanced treatment is needed.
Comprehensive Stroke Centers are generally the best place to go if you think you are having a stroke. They often have interdisciplinary teams with multiple specialists and established stroke protocols that utilize advanced therapies and treatments not always available at Primary Stroke Centers.
You should know the answers to the following questions as they pertain to the hospitals closest to you:
- Is the hospital a designated stroke care center and what is its level of designation?
- Does the hospital have a dedicated stroke care team on site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
- Is the hospital’s stroke care lead by a neurologist with special training and experience in vascular neurology?
- Are emergent neurointerventional procedures performed at the hospital?
Have an advocate
It is ideal for a potential stroke victim to have an advocate with them while they are being evaluated by stroke care professionals. If the stroke victim is unable to do so, their advocate should be able to describe the history of the signs and symptoms of stroke, the patient’s normal level of functioning, any medicines being taken, and any medical history. Sadly, one of the most common stroke scenarios we continue to see involves patients who arrive at a hospital’s Emergency Department after exhibiting the warning signs of a stroke. After the stroke symptoms subside, instead of being seen by a stroke specialist promptly, the patient is treated in a non-emergent manner. Inevitably, the patient suffers a massive stroke while waiting to seen by a stroke specialist. In many such cases, had the patient received an immediate workup and treatment, the stroke most likely would not have happened. You or your advocate must insist on prompt stroke care. Time is brain!
At Terrell • Hogan, we represent the injured as they seek justice. Protecting families from personal injury is what we do every day. If you have been the victim of medical malpractice, we invite you to consider consulting with one of our medical malpractice attorneys.
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.