Every 40 seconds in the United States someone sets a stroke. This translates to about 800,000 people suffering stroke injuries and 140,000 stroke-related deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. These are serious injuries caused by a number of factors, including medical care.
It is estimated that nearly 13 percent of people who suffered a stroke had visited an emergency room with stroke-like symptoms less than 30 days prior, but weren’t properly diagnosed, according to a 2014 study published in the medical journal Diagnosis. In some cases, patients may even have a legitimate medical malpractice claim.
What Is a Stroke?
In its simplest definition, a stroke occurs when blood supply is cut off from an area of the brain. Brain cells need a constant supply of oxygen from blood to survive, and when that supply is cut off, brain cells quickly begin to die.
There are a variety of factors that cause a stroke: smoking, heart disease, diabetes, and family history are just some stroke causes, according to the CDC. Additionally, some medications also warn patients on the label of an increased risk of stroke. The drugs can cause injury if patients or medical professionals don’t heed the warning labels.
Below, we will discuss the two main types of stroke, hemorrhagic and ischemic, the most common, in addition to a stroke-like event called transient ischemic attack (TIA).
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel in your brain bursts and spills blood on the surrounding brain tissue. This deprives significant portions of the brain of essential blood and oxygen.
Although hemorrhagic strokes are less frequent than ischemic strokes, hemorrhagic strokes most often lead to death.
Ischemic strokes account for roughly 80 percent of strokes in the U.S., according to the CDC. An ischemic stroke occurs when the arteries in your brain become blocked or narrowed, reducing blood flow to your brain.
Transient Ischemic Attack
A TIA is similar to an ischemic stroke, in that debris in your bloodstream block an artery in your brain. The difference is a TIA blockage and its symptoms are only temporary, and there is no lasting effect on the body. Symptoms can last as little as five minutes.
There are many different symptoms of a stroke depending on which area of your brain is affected. Symptoms of a stroke include:
- Difficulty with speech and understanding simple concepts
- Paralysis of the face, arms, or legs
- Blindness, blurred or distorted vision, double vision
- Sudden severe headache
- Dizziness, trouble walking, or loss of balance
Diagnosing and Treating Strokes
The sooner a stroke is diagnosed the greater the chance it can be effectively treated. Doctors will use physical exams, CAT scans, MRIs, blood tests, and other diagnostic tests to properly diagnose a stroke.
Treatment depends on which kind of stroke you are having. With ischemic strokes, doctors must act fast to restore blood flow to the brain. This is usually done with clot-busting drugs administered intravenously. This treatment is most effective when administered within three to four hours after stroke symptoms begin.
Treatment for a hemorrhagic strokes, on the other hand, is much more invasive. Your brain is bleeding and your skull is filling up with blood. Doctors will need to stop the bleeding in some manner, such as with an arterial clamp or coil, and the blood may need to be drained from the skull to relieve pressure on the brain.