A survey on stroke inpatient hospitalizations was recently published in the National Health Statistics (NHS) Report. Stroke is a major source of disability and death in the United States. In many instances, strokes can be prevented or minimized, so disability resulting from stroke can be the basis of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Statistics about Strokes
The NHS Report is published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These reports cover a broad variety of health-related topics. A recent report compared outcomes from hospital in-patient discharges and ambulatory visits for stroke involving a variety of age groups. According to the report, “cerebral vascular disease, or stroke, is a disease affecting the arteries leading to and within the brain, occurring when a blood vessel leading to the brain either ruptures or is blocked.” The report notes that stroke is the leading cause of death, killing approximately 140,000 Americans each year. There were 94,695 hospitalizations for strokes in the year studied. People who suffer a stroke require immediate medical attention. Emergency medical care is shown to reduce stroke-related disability and mortality. That is the essential concept behind the PSA motto “time means brain.” In other words, if medical attention is prompt and proper, the brain damage caused by a stroke can be minimized or reversed entirely.
Medical Malpractice that Results in a Stroke
Medical malpractice cases involving stroke typically arise from a number of common scenarios. One scenario involves the failure to administer clot busting medications or use endovascular techniques like thromboembolectomy to remove a clot that is obstructing the flow of blood to the brain. When this treatment is delayed, injury to the brain becomes permanent. This is called an “infarction.” When brain tissue is infarcted, the brain damage is permanent, leading to paralysis, cognitive decline, blindness, and disability.
Another common scenario involves failure to monitor a patient’s INR when the patient is on an anticoagulant medication, like warfarin or coumadin. If a patient becomes hypercoagulated, they are at risk of developing a brain bleed which can lead to stroke. The INR is monitored via a blood test to determine whether the patient’s coagulation is occurring within acceptable limits. Typically, the INR is checked frequently once a patient is first prescribed the anticoagulation. Once a pattern is established, monitoring may occur less frequently; however, adjustments in the medication or complications may require more frequent monitoring. Failure to properly monitor or adjust blood thinning medications to reach a therapeutic range that end up resulting in a brain bleed or hemorrhagic stroke may furnish the basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
One other common scenario arises out of a failure to anticoagulate a high-risk patient having atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is a common condition affecting many older adults. Many of those a-fib patients also have risk factors for developing a cardioembolic stroke as a result of ineffective heart pumping causing clot formation. The erratic heartbeat associated with a-fib can cause intracardiac clots to dislodge and travel into the brain causing obstruction and stroke. These patients must be anticoagulated with Coumadin or Eliquis. Sometimes, “bridging” anticoagulation is required using short-acting heparin to anticoagulate the patient either before, during, or after a surgery or other medical procedure. A failure to anticoagulate high-risk patients can lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Finally, a common scenario for a medical malpractice lawyer who handles stroke lawsuits occurs when a patient who is at high risk for the most common type of stroke is not properly screened, advised, or treated. Most strokes originate from clogging of the carotid arteries that supply most of the blood to the brain. As these arteries begin to clog over time, certain symptoms can develop, such as dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, or loss of consciousness. These symptoms in an older adult or in individuals with risk factors for atherosclerosis should be advised to undergo a thorough diagnostic workup, including auscultation of the carotid arteries with a stethoscope and an ultrasound. Patients at high risk for an embolic stroke related to stenosis of the carotid arteries should be advised to undergo endarterectomy, stenting, or a bypass. Failure to do so may furnish the basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Contact an Attorney
If you or someone you know had a stroke that was possibly related to medical malpractice, contact a medical malpractice lawyer, like a medical malpractice lawyer in Cleveland, OH, for more information on if you may have a case.
Thanks to Mishkind Kulwicki Law for their insight into medical malpractice lawsuits that involve a stroke.