The statistics about strokes are enough to frighten anyone. It is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans and depending on your risk factors, it may be the biggest threat to your life. With one stroke happening every 40 seconds in the U.S., physicians are trained to quickly diagnose and, when time allows, treat the stroke before permanent damage or death occurs. Unfortunately, proper diagnosis does not always happen.
When a patient dies, or suffers serious, long-term disability in the wake of a stroke, it's important for that person's loved ones to ask whether the physician followed protocol. Before you can ask that question, it's important to have a baseline understanding of what a stroke is.
What is a stroke?
The human body requires uninterrupted circulation of blood flow. An interruption from a clot or a hemorrhage is likely to cause a stroke.
Most strokes are categorized as ischemic strokes, meaning that blood flow to a certain part of the body is blocked. The less common form of a stroke is hemorrhagic, where a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and the pooling blood damages surrounding tissue.
The cause of this blood flow disruption can be from any number of things, including:
- Blood clot
- Arterial abnormalities
- Weakened arteries from high blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Plaque buildup
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries)
While having a patient's medical history is helpful, it is not always available, and there are more illustrative and immediate diagnostic tools available.
Diagnosing a stroke
Physicians can easily spot the signs of stroke and provide medical intervention. Depending on what type of stroke and the location in the body, physicians simply may not have ample time to assess, let alone intervene. If there is enough time, the physician will order blood tests and various scans that will display images of the circulatory system and identify the best treatment option. They may also order tPA, which is a "clot buster".
When a person dies from a stroke or is seriously injured, it is always important to ask questions. Although it will not turn back time, examining the causes of a mistake could result in a settlement or even save future lives.