Brain damage related to stroke is a permanent and often devastating injury. When a loved one suffers a stroke in the healthcare setting that could have been avoided, a thorough investigation is required by an experienced medical negligence lawyer.
The term “stroke” refers to brain damage that occurs as a result of inadequate blood flow to brain tissue. When the brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients carried by the circulatory system, brain cells begin to fail and ultimately die. When brain tissue is damaged, called an infarction, it does not recover. Sometimes, recovery is noticed after a stroke, but this is due to areas of the brain that are not affected by the stroke taking over the function of areas that were damaged by the stroke.
Strokes can occur for a variety of reasons. A major cause of strokes is obstruction of the major arteries that travel through the neck and supply blood to the brain. The carotid arteries can become clogged with arterial sclerosis that may be part of the normal aging process or related to underlying metabolic disorders. Vertebral artery dissections can occur as a result of improper chiropractic maneuvers or a chokehold during horseplay or trauma during a sporting event. In patients who experience lightheadedness, dizziness or a fainting spell, or who have abnormal sounds (“bruits”) when a stethoscope is used to auscultate the arteries, narrowing of these arteries should be suspected. Once there is a high index of suspicion, further testing is required, including an ultrasound. Surgical procedures are available to open obstructed blood vessels to prevent a stroke from occurring. A delay in diagnosis or delayed treatment of clogged carotid arteries can form the basis of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Blood clots can also embolize from the heart. Atrial fibrillation is a condition that affects many Americans, especially as they age. Certain populations of patients with atrial fibrillation (“AF”) are at increased risk of developing clots in their heart that can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. Established medical guidelines require that high-risk patients be placed on anticoagulation, a blood thinner, to prevent clot formation. A physician’s failure to diagnose AF or failure to do a risk assessment for stroke risk after the diagnosis of AF is made may be held liable for failing to prescribe blood thinners to reduce the risk of stroke.
Another type of stroke is a hemorrhagic stroke, also known as a “brain bleed.” Bleeding from vessels in the brain can occur for a number of reasons, including a ruptured aneurysm or a fall in an elderly patient. Severe headaches may raise a red flag about an aneurysm that is at risk of rupturing. Head imaging is available to identify aneurysms before they rupture in patients with a history of migraine headaches. Again, established medical guidelines speak to this issue. Bleeding in the brain may also occur as a result of an overdose of anticoagulation medication, such as heparin or warfarin. There are tests available to monitor clotting times in patients who are on blood thinners to ensure that dosing is within safe limits.
Brain injury (stroke) can also occur as a result of inadequate blood flow to the brain resulting from abnormally low blood pressure (hypotension). Severe hypotension can result from the shock caused by infection (septic shock), blood loss due to trauma or damage to an artery (hemorrhagic shock) and impaired heart function (cardiogenic shock). Your medical malpractice lawyer in Cleveland, OH will want to investigate the underlying cause of shock leading to brain damage to determine whether the cause of the shock was promptly identified and treated. Delayed diagnosis or a delay in treatment are common grounds for medical malpractice lawsuits.
Thanks to Mishkind & Kulwicki for their insight into medical malpractice and strokes.