Strokes are the leading cause of serious, long-term disability and the third leading cause of death in this country. People who are fortunate enough to survive a stroke are often left paralyzed — typically on one side of their body. Many stroke survivors’ ability to speak is impaired.
The prognosis for recovery of motor skills and speech often depends on how long the brain was deprived of oxygenated blood after the stroke. Immediate diagnosis and medical care are vital to survival and recovery after a stroke.
Most strokes involve a blocked blood vessel, sometimes caused by a clot. Some are caused by a ruptured blood vessel that allows blood to leak into the brain.
The medical community has worked to educate the public on how to recognize the signs of a stroke, so they can get help faster if they suspect that they’re suffering one. Researchers are also working on ways to prevent strokes. One thing they’ve learned is that people who suffer minor strokes — or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) — are at greater risk of suffering other and possibly more serious strokes during their lifetime.
When an MRI is done on a patient believed to have suffered a TIA, there’s an 83% chance of detecting it — far higher than if only a CT scan is done. The problem is that often TIAs are not properly diagnosed. Therefore, no diagnostic tests are done. About half of patients who suffer a TIA don’t display “typical” symptoms — such as sensory issues like blindness. They may experience “nontraditional” symptoms such as numbness, dizziness and very brief bouts of speech difficulty.
Often patients and their loved ones have to advocate for themselves. If you believe you may have suffered a stroke, regardless of your age or whether you have other high risk factors, don’t hesitate to ask that your doctor perform the tests that could help confirm that (or rule it out). If you or a family member was harmed by a doctor’s failure to diagnose any condition, it may be wise to determine whether you have a viable medical malpractice case.