Stroke misdiagnosis: what to do

Suffering a stroke can be one of the most frightening and distressing experiences of your life or that of a loved one.

If it has been misdiagnosed or was not diagnosed in time, however, it can result in even more suffering. An instance of medical negligence such as this can mean that treatment can’t be administered in time to help the sufferer make a good recovery.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a medical emergency that happens when blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. The NHS states that urgent treatment is essential as the earlier a person is treated, the less damage will be suffered.

There are two main types of stroke: ischaemic and haemorrhagic.

Ischaemic strokes are caused by blockages, such as a blood clot, that cut off the blood supply to the brain. Meanwhile, haemorrhagic strokes happen when a blood vessel bursts in or around the brain. These are considered more dangerous.

You can work out whether someone has had a stroke by analysing whether their face has dropped on one side or if they’re unable to smile. If they have had a stroke, they may also be unable to raise both their arms. Meanwhile, their speech may be slurred or they may be unable to speak at all. They may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.

Misdiagnosis of a stroke

Because of the variety of symptoms that accompany a stroke, the condition has the potential to confuse medical professionals.

A stroke could be misdiagnosed as Bell’s palsy as the latter condition can result in facial paralysis, usually seen in stroke cases. Meanwhile, the confusion and misunderstanding that comes with so many strokes can also be seen in urinary tract infections. This could also be caused by dementia – as could the difficulty speaking that many people who have had a stroke display.

Migraine is perhaps one of the most common conditions that stroke is misdiagnosed as. These kinds of headaches can deliver severe head pain – something commonly experienced by stroke sufferers – as well as occasionally causing temporary sight loss. Migraine can also cause slurred speech and tingling and numbness in the limbs.

The effect of misdiagnosis

If you or a loved one has had a stroke misdiagnosed, it could result in severe and permanent disability. This is due to the crucial importance of early treatment. If a stroke is misdiagnosed, it can’t be treated. This means the sufferer can’t receive the essential care they need to boost their chances of recovery.

They may suffer from paralysis – often of one side of the body. They can also find it difficult – sometimes impossible – to speak again after a stroke.

People who have had a stroke can also experience emotional challenges, changes in their behaviour, memory and cognitive ability. A misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis only exacerbates the problems stroke survivors face.

But the worst result for a misdiagnosed stroke is death. This is why if you suspect you or a loved one has had a stroke but had it diagnosed as another condition, it’s essential to not let it rest.

Keep pressing your doctors for a definitive ruling out of the possibility is was a stroke. Request a second opinion if you don’t think you’ve received the appropriate care.

And never forget that you have the ability to take legal action against those responsible for the misdiagnosis. Pursuing a claim can provide you with the compensation you may need to pay for treatment or necessary home modifications. It can also highlight what went wrong to the healthcare trust responsible, giving them the opportunity to address the issue.

Image copyright: Robert Kneschke