Malpractice Verdict in New York Stroke Case

The Times Union (Albany, New York) reports that after a three-week trial before Supreme Court Judge Michael Lynch, a jury awarded Watervliet man and his wife $1.87 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit Tuesday against a doctor whose Plaintiffs alleged failure to detect and disclose a high glucose condition leading to a stroke.

Specifically, the jury believed it was negligent not to advise the Plaintiff of the results of a blood glucose study that had been done. The jury found the doctor’s negligence was a “substantial factor” in his stroke. The doctor’s lawyer contended that there is no evidence that Plaintiff would have acted had he been given the blood glucose test results.

Samaritan Hospital was also a named defendant, but the jury did not find that the hospital was negligent.

Stroke Warning Signs

What doctors need to see, at a minimum, is the obvious signs of a stroke:

  • Numbness or weakness in the arm, face, or leg.  If one sign of the body is implicated, that is also a huge red flag.
  • A severe headache
  • Confusion
  • Vision problems
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance or coordination

Still, a stroke is hard to diagnose because many things cause it. A seizure could masquerade as a stroke, a brain tumor could masquerade as a stroke. So expert physicians require diagnostic skills to figure out what kind of imaging to do to get to the bottom of the problem.  Most stroke lawsuits are misdiagnosis claims.

Where do doctors miss a stroke misdiagnosis.  It is often in the emergency room.  Missed or delayed diagnosis of acute stroke in the ER occurs in approximately 9% to 10% of confirmed stroke patients.

What Kind of Stroke Is Most Common?

Strokes are divided into two groups: ischemic strokes (“IS”), due to blockages of blood vessels, and hemorrhagic events, due to rapture of blood vessels. Approximately 87% of strokes are ischemic strokes, most often from long-standing hypertension and/or diabetes.  They may result from local vessel damage. They are also caused by more distant sources of occlusion. Common examples we see in malpractice lawsuits are emboli traveling from the heart or clotting abnormalities of the blood.

With an ischemic stroke, the oxygen-rich blood supply to part of your brain is cut off or severely limited.  After approximately 4 minutes without blood and oxygen, permanent damage is caused in the victim’s brain cells.

TPA Intervention

The standard of care for stroke intervention is the intravenous administration of tPA (tissue plasminogen activator).  There is widespread consensus that immediate tPA is the gold standard for treating stroke patients.  tPa is a drug that interferes with the body’s clotting mechanisms to activate factors in the thrombolytic chain.  In other words, the tPA causes the bloodstream to release factors that break apart blood clots. A majority of strokes are caused by blood clots that block blood flow to the brain.  This oxygen loss to the brain causes the death of brain cells. The tPA stops the blood clots in their tracks by dissolving them away and getting the blood flowing back to the brain where it needs to be. Rapid treatment with tPA is associated with better outcomes.

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