Stroke Misdiagnosis

What Happens If a Stroke Goes Undiagnosed?

February 10, 2022

When someone suffers a stroke, a prompt diagnosis is critical to minimizing the risk of long-term consequences. Strokes can have a devastating impact on the lives of stroke victims. When a part of the brain is deprived of its blood supply, cells may die. If a large number of brain cells die, a person can lose the ability to move, speak, and remember.

When doctors fail to diagnose serious health issues, the consequences can be catastrophic. If you suffered harm because of diagnosis error, you deserve justice for your injuries and losses.

The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Coplan + Crane have substantial experience handling a range of claims involving medical negligence. We have built a reputation for excellence fighting on behalf of our clients who have suffered undue injuries caused by negligent medical care.

Understanding the Consequences of a Stroke Misdiagnosis

The longer the brain is deprived of oxygen, the more severe the effects can become. Because of this, a timely diagnosis is crucial. Unfortunately, stroke misdiagnoses are common, as doctors often make mistakes such as:

  • Failing to identify or consider a patient’s risk factors for suffering a stroke
  • Assuming that stroke symptoms are indicative of a less-severe medical condition
  • Downplaying or disregarding the severity of a patient’s symptoms
  • Waiting too long to perform neurological testing (i.e. a CT scan or MRI)
  • Misreading a patient’s scans or test results

Whether a health care provider (i.e. a doctor or EMT) fails to diagnose a patient’s stroke, a provider misdiagnoses a stroke as another condition, or a stroke diagnosis comes too late, the consequences can be the same. Time is crucial in stroke treatment. It should be administered as quickly as possible, and even before a patient arrives at the hospital whenever possible.

With timely treatment, it may be possible to reverse the symptoms of a stroke in many cases. But, if a stroke goes undiagnosed, this is not possible. When it comes to understanding what happens when a stroke goes undiagnosed, it is necessary to examine the potential worst-case scenario in light of the circumstances at hand.

Depending on the nature (i.e. hemorrhagic, ischemic, or transient ischemic) and severity of a patient’s stroke, a stroke can have a variety of long-term effects. Potential consequences of suffering an undiagnosed stroke include:

  • Being in a “locked-in” state, which causes the inability to speak and full paralysis below the neck
  • Changes in mood and behavior
  • Chronic pain and headaches 
  • Confusion, difficulty understanding, and other cognitive effects
  • Difficulty swallowing or inability to swallow
  • Facial weakness or numbness
  • Partial paralysis (either on the left side or the right side of the body, depending on where in the brain the stroke occurs)
  • Speech and language problems 
  • Memory loss
  • Visual impairments (including blurred vision, double vision, or loss of vision in one or both eyes)

In terms of recovery, treatment for the consequences of an undiagnosed stroke typically focuses on symptom management. Once the brain suffers permanent damage due to oxygen deprivation, there is generally no going back. Suffering an undiagnosed stroke can also shorten a person’s life expectancy; and, in the most severe cases, the effects of an undiagnosed stroke can be fatal. 

What Are Your Legal Rights When a Stroke Goes Undiagnosed in Chicago?

Chicago is home to some of the best health care facilities in the United States. However, even providers at these facilities make mistakes. If you or a loved one suffered a stroke that went undiagnosed despite efforts to seek treatment, you could have a claim for medical malpractice. 

Diagnostic errors are among the most common types of medical malpractice. These errors are particularly common with conditions that have non-specific symptoms—such as strokes. Many of the hallmark symptoms of a stroke (i.e. trouble walking, trouble speaking, and numbness) can be symptomatic of other health conditions as well, and doctors will often hesitate to diagnose a patient with a stroke when a less-severe diagnosis is possible. 

If you or a loved one is a victim of medical malpractice, you are entitled to just compensation under Illinois law. The law allows patients and families to recover compensation for the financial costs of malpractice (i.e. medical bills, prescription costs, and lost earnings) as well as the non-financial consequences of health care providers’ mistakes (i.e. pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life). The statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in Illinois is two years from the date of discovery in most cases, but it is important that you speak with a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer about your claim as soon as possible. 

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer In Chicago

If you believe medical negligence may have caused you harm, it’s important to speak with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer right away. You may be facing high medical bills, severe pain, and lost wages. We can help.

The experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Coplan + Crane know the challenges endured by victims of medical negligence. We are committed to easing your burden and fighting for your rights so you can focus on healing.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a doctor, EMT, or other healthcare professional, contact Coplan + Crane today online or at (708) 358-8080 for a free initial consultation. We proudly serve clients in Chicago, Oak Park, Rockford, and other Illinois areas.