Delayed Stroke Diagnosis - Insight from a Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney

Negligence in Delayed Stroke Diagnosis in Florida

When it comes to stroke, any health care provider will tell you “time is brain.” You may have seen billboards instructing you to act F.A.S.T. when you see the signs of stroke. A delayed stroke diagnosis can be devastating. While some delays are outside of a hospital’s control—such as how long it takes a patient suffering from a stroke to seek out medical care—negligent delays can happen after a patient arrives at a hospital, resulting in medical malpractice.

Two Primary Types of Strokes

There are two primary types of strokes—those caused by blood clots, and those caused by bleeding in the brain. Both can require time sensitive treatment, but they are treated differently.

Hemorrhagic Strokes: Bleeding Strokes

Bleeding strokes, also known as “hemorrhagic” strokes, occur when  a blood vessel in the brain starts bleeding. Bleeding in the brain causes pressure to build up inside of the skull, which can press on the brain and cause serious problems if that pressure isn’t relieved in a timely manner. Neurosurgeons are commonly consulted to help figure out the best way to relieve the pressure inside of the skull. Not all hospitals have neurosurgeons available, and a patient may need to be transferred to a facility that has this important and life-saving capability. Delays can occur in this transfer process, or in recognizing that pressure is building inside of the skull.

Ischemic Strokes: Stroke Caused By a Blood Clot

The other type of stroke is caused by a blood clot, also known as an “ischemic” stroke. A blood clot forms and lodges in a blood vessel in the brain, cutting off blood flow to part of the brain, and causing the patient’s “stroke symptoms.” When a patient arrives to a hospital in a timely manner, there are two primary treatments that might be available: a clot-busting drug called tPA, and an interventional procedure called “thrombectomy” where a trained specialist uses a tool called a “retriever” to snare the offending blood clot and remove it from where it is lodged, restoring blood flow. Both therapies are aimed at removing the blood clot and restoring blood flow to the oxygen-starved brain.

Should a Patient Receive TPA or Thrombectomy?

Whether a patient can receive tPA or thrombectomy depends on a lot of unique patient factors. Not every patient is a candidate for these therapies, and in fact, giving these therapies to the wrong patient can do serious harm. Some patients will actually need both therapies in order to treat their condition.

TPA: The Clot Busting Drug

TPA—the clot busting drug—must be administered within 4.5 hours of onset, but the sooner it is given, the better the odds of a good outcome. Hospitals can prepare themselves best for stroke patients by implementing and enforcing policies and procedures that aim at prompt evaluation and treatment of these at-risk patients.


Thrombectomy, on the other hand, can be successful as long as 24-hours after the onset of symptoms.  How long after onset a patient may benefit from thrombectomy may depend on the results of specialized imaging studies that can give the specialists performing thrombectomies an idea of how much brain there is left to save, or if the damage is already done. Many hospitals that advertise themselves as “primary stroke centers” do not offer thrombectomy services, and must transfer appropriate patients to hospitals that offer this important treatment.

Florida Hospitals Should Be Prepared to Avoid a Delayed Stroke Diagnosis

Given that stroke is a leading cause of disability in the United States, hospitals everywhere should prepare themselves to receive stroke patients. Even if a hospital does not offer a particular service, such as thrombectomy, the hospital can best serve its patients by training its staff on policies that enable the prompt transfer of these patients to facilities where they can get the treatment they need.

Paul | Knopf | Bigger - Florida Injury AttorneysIf you or a loved one is suffering from the devastating effects of a stroke, and you feel that you arrived at the hospital promptly, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to investigate the specifics of your case.

Ultimately, if you feel that a physician’s or hospital’s negligence caused or contributed to your injury or the death of a loved one—which resulted due to a delayed stroke diagnosis —you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Paul | Knopf | Bigger to give you advice.