Medico-legal review suggests that physicians miss the signs of stroke

A recent review of cases conducted by the Canadian Medical Protective Association, an organization that defends physicians in Canada, has found that most medical malpractice cases involving stroke had issues with the diagnosis. This means that sometimes doctors are missing the signs of stroke at initial presentation thereby depriving patients of necessary prompt treatment. In the cases reviewed, more than 25% of patients died and another 40% were left with a significant disability.

In the reviewed cases, the common stroke symptoms were headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. Delayed presentation with longer symptom duration spanning days and sometimes weeks was also seen. We can take it from the CMPA synopsis that cases where there was atypical presentation of stroke were generally easier to defend, especially where there was adequate neurological assessment and where appropriate discharge instructions were provided to a patient.

  • Malpractice cases that were more successful included situations where physicians
  • Failed to recognize the seriousness of the patient’s condition with red flags such as a new or severe headache, or focal neurological signs,
  • Did not perform a full physical examination including full vital signs, orientation, gait, speech, finger-to-nose testing, and visual field assessment, examination of the cranial nerves and motor and sensory function in all four extremities,
  • Developed an inadequate differential diagnosis,
  • Failed to consider the possibility of stroke in patients who have obvious risk factors such as smoking, obesity and hypertension,
  • Anchored on a specific diagnosis such as migraine or psychiatric disorder without considering the possibility of stroke.

Research suggests that up to 10% of strokes are not recognized at initial presentation. Research also shows that earlier diagnosis and treatment of stroke can improve outcomes. If you or your loved one suffered an injury as a result of a stroke and you were seen at the hospital or at a medical clinic and you believe that the diagnosis was potentially missed or delayed, you may be entitled to compensation for the injuries. At Pacific Medical Law we often hear from patients who have experienced a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of stroke that left them with a permanent disability. Although it is not possible to identify negligence in every case we review, we have been successful at helping clients obtain much-needed compensation for the injuries that they suffered as a result of a missed or delayed diagnosis of stroke.

You can read more about the CMPA case review findings here:

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