What is a stroke?

A stroke is damage to part of the brain when its blood supply is suddenly reduced or stopped. The part of the brain deprived of blood (and therefore oxygen) dies and can no longer function.

How does a stroke occur?

Blood is prevented from reaching brain tissue when a blood vessel becomes blocked or bursts inside the brain. There are several types of strokes. A thrombotic stroke occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in an artery and blocks blood flow to the brain. An embolic stroke occurs when a blood clot or a piece of debris called plaque, which forms in another vessel in the body, breaks away, and flows through the bloodstream to the brain. The clot or clump of plaque then blocks an artery in the brain. A lacunar stroke is caused by a blockage in certain small blood vessels inside the brain. A cerebral hemorrhage occurs when an artery in the brain tears or bursts, causing blood to spill out. A hemorrhage often happens without warning. It usually occurs as a result of high blood pressure. Less often it may result from a blood vessel defect present since birth.

What are the symptoms of a stroke?

The symptoms of a stroke differ depending on the part of the brain affected and the extent of the damage. Symptoms following a stroke may include: severe headache; weakness; numbness/tingling in the face, arm, and leg on one side of the body; an inability to walk; dizziness; confusion; unconsciousness; slurring or loss of speech; visual disturbances; or loss of bladder or bowel control. A warning known as transient ischemic attacks (TIA’s) may happen before the actual stroke. TIA's occur when the blood supply to the brain is cut off for a short time without causing permanent damage.  A TIA is sometimes referred to as a "ministroke" because it may cause the same symptoms as a stroke but the symptoms go away within minutes to a few hours.

How can there be medical malpractice related to a stroke victim?

When medical malpractice occurs related to stroke victims it usually relates to the failure of the healthcare provider to make a timely diagnosis of an ongoing or impending stroke and/or the failure to timely and properly treat this condition. More specifically some of the issues to examine are whether there was a:

  • Failure to perform an adequate history and physical examination of the patient.
  • Failure to consider the patient’s risk factors for a stroke.
  • Failure to recognize symptoms of a TIA as foreshadowing of a future stroke.
  • Failure to recognize symptoms of an ongoing or impending stroke.
  • Failure to obtain or properly interpret CT and/or MRI of the patient’s brain.
  • Failure to obtain and properly interpret blood tests.
  • Failure to timely prescribe one or several drugs to help restore blood flow to the blocked artery if it is a thrombotic stroke.  These drugs may include aspirin, heparin, tPA, and streptokinase.
  • Failure to appropriately manage blood pressure and control pain.
  • Failure to formulate and implement a treatment/medication plan to prevent a TIA patient from having a first stroke or a stroke patient from having another stroke.
  • Failure to timely operate to control bleeding and reduce intra-cranial swelling, if it is a hemorrhagic stroke.


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