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Doctors may misdiagnose young patients exhibiting stroke symptoms

Arizona patients who are under 50 may be surprised to learn that they may be at risk for suffering a stroke. More importantly, however, they may also be surprised to learn that doctors and emergency room staff often fail to diagnose strokes in young patients, which could lead to temporary or permanent brain damage.

A study published by the American Heart Association in 2009 found that patients under 50 were likely to be misdiagnosed with disorders that include migraine, alcohol intoxication and vertigo when presented with stroke symptoms. For this particular study, researchers analyzed the data on 57 patients who ranged in ages from 16 to 50 years old. These patients exhibited a wide range of symptoms classically associated with strokes, including numbness on the side of the face, blurred vision, lack of muscle coordination and even difficulty speaking.

When it comes to strokes, an early diagnosis is crucial for optimal recovery. The only drug approved by the U.S. government for the treatment of acute stroke must be administered within three hours of the symptoms showing up. As a result of the study, the researchers stated that all patients exhibiting signs of a stroke, regardless of their age, should be assessed carefully. Once 48 hours has passed since the initial exhibition of the symptoms, there are not drugs or other treatments that can ward off permanent damage caused by the stroke.

Because strokes can result in permanent brain damage, doctors must be vigilant when assessing patients who are exhibiting stroke symptoms. If a doctor or emergency staff member give the patient a misdiagnosis and that patient suffers a brain injury as a result, the person or their family members may be eligible to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. In most cases, the doctor who made the diagnosis and the hospital where the injury happened would be named as defendants.

Source: Science Daily, "Young Adult Stroke Patients May Be Misdiagnosed In ER", December 05, 2014

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