Lawsuits Around Failure to Diagnose a Stroke

A medical professional's failure to diagnose a stroke that leads to harm can be the potential for a medical malpractice lawsuit, contact an attorney.

There are numerous ways in which a failure to diagnose a stroke can lead to a potential medical malpractice lawsuit. Some potential examples include:

  • Doctors failing to notice a transient ischemic attack (TIA or mini-stroke) or other symptoms associated with a stroke
  • Failing to take proper radiology imaging (including computed tomography angiography or CTA)
  • Not administering the right treatment, including blood thinners
  • Failure to take recognize neurologic deficits that indicate a stroke
  • Not getting a proper medical history of the patient
  • And others

If you feel that a medical professional failed to diagnose stroke of you or a family member and that has caused you harm, you should consult with an attorney about your potential legal options. 

It is important to recognize that not every misdiagnosis case is a result of medical malpractice. In order for there to be a potential case, you must be able to prove that the outcome would have been different if the doctor performed within the standard of care. This depends on the facts surrounding your medical care including when the stroke was identified, when it should have been diagnosed, and the probable success of treatment.

Medical-Legal Considerations About Stroke Cases

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is when blood supply fails to get to the brain. There are two kinds of strokes. An ischemic stroke is when there is an abrupt blockage of arteries that to the brain.[1] A hemorrhagic stroke is when a blood vessel in the brain bursts allowing blood into the surrounding brain tissue.[2] Strokes can occur very quickly and require immediate treatment.

Ischemic Strokes are the most common kinds of stroke (about 88% of strokes) can be further broken into two categories, thrombotic and embolic.[3] A thrombotic stroke occurs when diseased or damage cerebral arteries cause a blood clot to block blood flow to the brain. These can be either large vessel or small vessel thrombosis depending on the location. This compares to an embolic stroke which is caused by a clot within an artery that is not in the brain itself. The emboli will travel in the bloodstream until they get lodged and block off blood supply to the brain.

A transient ischemic attack or ministroke is a temporary period of symptoms that are similar to a stroke.[4]They usually only occur for a few minutes and don't cause permanent damage. About 1 in 3 people who suffer a transient ischemic attack will go on to have a full stroke, many within one year. It is imperative that doctors recognize transient ischemic attacks in order to provide treatment to prevent a more serious stroke.

Common medical professionals involved in the care of someone with a stroke include an attending physician, neurologists, neurosurgeons, cardiologists, vascular neurologists, neuro-interventional radiologists, neuro-radiologists, nurses, and/or others. 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke?

A stroke is one of the major causes of neurological deficits and requires noticing the signs and symptoms to get immediate treatment. There are various clinical signs of stroke, although some are nonspecific and may not be caused by an stroke event.[5] Signs and symptoms of a stroke include sudden: 

  • Trouble walking, dizziness, vertigo, or lack of coordination
  • Intense headache with no known cause
  • Difficulty with vision
  • Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg (many times on one side of the body)

In the case of transient ischemic attacks, these signs and symptoms may only be present for a few minutes and go away. However, it is imperative to seek medical treatment right away with these symptoms so doctors can assess and treat you to prevent permanent neurologic damage.

What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Stroke? 

Medical professionals should be aware of the causes and risk factors that have been associated with a stroke [6], causes include:

  • Plaque buildup of the arteries which limits blood flow
  • Blood clots
  • Inflammation which damages blood vessels
  • And others

Some of the risk factors [7] include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Very young and older age
  • High LDL cholesterol levels
  • Infections that cause inflammation, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Race and ethnicity, certain racial backgrounds are more prone to developing strokes
  • Family history
How is a Stroke Diagnosed?

A stroke is diagnosed by a doctor recognizing the warning signs and risk factors that indicate a potential stroke. They do this by obtaining a careful medical history of the patient. The doctor will evaluate the potential symptoms that have occurred and medications that are taken. The doctor should conduct a thorough physical examination with an emphasis on neurologic functioning (checking strength, sensation, coordination, and reflexes.)[8]Depending on the results of the examination, the doctor made order imaging tests to be read by a radiologist.

What are the Treatments for a Stroke? 

Depending on when the stroke is diagnosed, there are few different treatment options available. One is through the use of medications such as antiplatelets, thrombolytics, and anticoagulants.[9]These medications are designed to provide blood from clotting in order to prevent a stroke (one example is Aspirin).[10]Another is through surgical intervention in which a neurosurgeon removes the blockage in the arteries in the neck. Interventional Neuroradiologists can also perform certain procedures to promote blood flow through the arteries into the brain.[11]

How Do You Get Your Potential Failure to Diagnose a Stroke Case Reviewed?

Use the phone number or form on this site so an attorney can talk with you regarding what happened and determine if there may have been medical malpractice.

Disclaimer: ** Do not take this information as medical advice or knowledge and consult with your doctor regarding your medical care.**


[2] Id.

[3] Id.




[7] Id.



[10] Id.

[11] Id.

If you feel that a medical professional failed to diagnose a medical condition and that has caused you or your family harm, contact Washington Personal Injury Law today about your potential legal options. 


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