Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Study: Many strokes undiagnosed at initial ER visit

Most people in Pittsburgh and the rest of the country don’t take a decision to go to the emergency room lightly.

Not only is an emergency room visit extremely expensive, it also often requires long waits and stressful testing. As a result, most people only visit emergency rooms when they think something could be seriously wrong.

However, emergency room doctors often overlook symptoms that could suggest a major health problem is going on and decide to send patients home, only to put them in serious peril.

According to an alarming new study, many emergency department doctors misdiagnosed early signs of strokes such as headaches and dizziness. A few days later, the symptoms in stoke victims appear more obvious, but it could be too late by then.

The study, which was recently published in the online journal Diagnosis, involved analyzing 187,188 stoke cases. The researchers determined that more than 12 percent of the stoke cases involved an earlier emergency room visit that resulted in a diagnosis for something other than a possible stroke.

They said that about one and 10 of these cases involved a discharge diagnosis of headache and dizziness, which the researchers determined could have represented the failure to diagnose a stroke.

The researchers also determined that the early stroke symptoms were “missed” most frequently in women, minorities and patients under the age of 45.

The researchers then pointed to another study suggesting that strokes are commonly misdiagnosed compared to other serious conditions such as heart attacks.

Many of us only visit the ER when we think something is seriously wrong, which is why we want to believe that doctors will take our complaints seriously. Studies like this one show that is, unfortunately, not always the case.

In cases of missed or delayed diagnoses, victims and their families may be able to pursue medical malpractice claims against the negligent hospitals for damages.

Source: MedPage Today, “Stroke Rounds: Early Signs of Stroke Missed in Many Cases,” Todd Neale, April 8, 2014 

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