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A rapid and accurate diagnosis is crucial for stroke victims

Jul 27, 2018 | Failure to Diagnose

The effects of a debilitating stroke can be greatly reduced when patients in New York and around the country receive thrombosis quickly. Thrombosis, which is also known as thrombolytic therapy, breaks down blood clots to relive pressure on the brain. However, accurately identifying stroke victims can be difficult for even experienced emergency room doctors as several other conditions present similar symptoms. Doctors at the Helsinki University Hospital studied 1,015 cases involving possible stroke victims to determine whether or not the pressure to generate a speedy diagnosis was affecting their accuracy, and they discovered that only two of these patients received thrombosis unnecessarily.

Medical guidelines call for thrombosis to begin less than an hour from the time patients are admitted. The emergency room physicians at Helsinki University Hospital have been able to reduce door-to-needle times to under 20 minutes, which prompted some doctors to worry that patients were being screened and diagnosed too quickly. While the study revealed that diagnostic errors were made 6.9 percent of the time, these errors only led to worse patient outcomes on eight occasions.

However, many of the 70 misdiagnosed patients received unnecessary medication, and underlying conditions that are often mistaken for strokes, such as migraine headaches, epileptic seizures and psychogenic episodes, were left untreated. The study also suggests that the misdiagnosis of stroke patients extended emergency room stays by more than an hour. The results of the study were published online on July 11 by the medical journal Neurology.

Patients who are harmed due to negligent medical treatment may pursue civil remedies, but these cases can be difficult for juries to understand. When complex medical testimony could obfuscate the facts, personal injury attorneys with experience in malpractice cases may call on specialists or other experts to explain in simple terms how the treatment provided failed to meet generally accepted health care standards.