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Emergency doctors may miss signs of stroke

We are all hopefully that the doctors in emergency rooms can help their patients. But what happens when there is a misdiagnosis?

A recent report from Johns Hopkins University shows that women, minorities and people under the age of 45 who have suffered a stroke, all have a greater risk of receiving the wrong diagnosis in the ER. The study shows that these groups of people have up to a 30 percent higher likelihood of their stroke being missed by an ER doctor. The study found that an initial visit to the ER with patients complaining of headaches and dizziness often resulted in the patients being diagnosed with conditions such as a migraine, inner ear infection or even being sent home with no diagnosis. Oftentimes these patients soon return with obvious signs of stroke, which can lead to a worsened condition because of delayed treatment.

The reason why these groups can frequently have a misdiagnosis when it comes to a stroke are not known. It may be because of language barriers or because it's unusual for a younger person to have a stroke. Women are also less likely to exhibit the typical stroke symptoms, such as weakness in one arm or trouble with speech. Early treatment for strokes can improve stroke outcomes and reduce the risk of having another by up to 80 percent.

Patients need to learn the signs of a stroke as every minute counts when it comes to treatment. And, doctors who misdiagnose a stroke may be subject to negligence allegations. Awareness of how severe strokes can be can help both patients and doctors improve the outcomes when a stroke occurs.

Source: NPR.org, "Emergency docs more likely to miss signs of stroke in the young", Linda Poon, Accessed Sept. 22 2014

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