Misdiagnosis of Cause of High Blood Pressure Leads to Permanent Brain Damage

An Indiana jury recently awarded a 37 year old woman $875,000 for permanent brain damage she suffered after a physician misdiagnosed her elevated blood pressure as nothing more than a side effect of medications she was currently taking.  Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff presented to a hospital and was diagnosed as having had a stroke that resulted in right hemi-paralysis and aphasia, injuries that left her unable to work.  In her case, the Plaintiff alleged that she presented to her gastroenterologist for a post-operative consultation.  At the time of the examination, the plaintiff's  blood pressure was elevated, and she reported that she had recently experienced dizziness, nosebleeds, blurred vision and tingling in her face and upper extremity.  The gastroenterologist dismissed these signs as a side effect of the medications she was then taking.  That evening, the plaintiff suffered a stroke.  The plaintiff sued the physician, alleging that he should have referred her for an immediate evaluation at a hospital or with an internal medicine specialist in light of her high risk of stroke. 

A stroke is generally regarded as an attack on the brain caused by the reduction of cessation of blood flow to the brain.  If the flow of blood is stopped for longer than a few seconds, the brain doesn't get oxygen and brain cells can begin to die, causing permanent damage.   As research as show, the difference between disability and recovery is often measured in hours hence the need for immediate evaluation and treatment.  One drug in particular, tPA, a clot buster, is well known to treat strokes, as long as it is administered within 3 hours of the onset of symptoms.  If more time than that has already elapsed, then the drug is not effective.    In addition, imaging of the brain is widely regarded as an essential tool in the diagnosis of a stroke as it determines which treatment options the physicians will pursue.  Essentially, the physicians can see (via MRI) what is going on in the brain and therefore be able to treat it.  The problem typically is that most stroke patients do not act quickly enough when symptoms first occur, believing that they will recover from the symptoms quickly and/or not associating the symptoms with a stroke.   Studies have shown that approximately 1/3 of stroke patients die and another 1/3 are permanently disabled.  This means that only 1/3 of patients who present to the hospital with a stroke outside of three hours after their symptoms first occur are able to survive the stroke without any permanent disability

At STSW, our lawyers routinely handle medical malpractice / negligence cases involving a misdiagnosis or delay in diagnosis of a condition that causes permanent injury.  If you or a loved one believes you have been the victim of such a circumstance, call our medical malpractice team for a free consultation.  Our lawyers routinely handle cases in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area against health care providers, their professional associations and hospitals.  Call our office at 410-385-2225 or visit our website to set up your free consultation.