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Misdiagnosis leads to delayed treatment with pediatric strokes

In April 2012, a 15-year-old Ohio boy woke up with an acute pain in his head that was so bad it made him vomit. His parents believed he had the flu until they realized that he could not understand the words in a note they had written and left on the counter for him. They rushed him to the emergency room, where the initial diagnosis he received was a migraine headache. At his parents' insistence, doctors explored his condition further. A transfer of care facilities and a CT scan revealed that the boy had a stroke - but 25 hours had already passed, during which he could have been receiving life-saving treatment.

Doctors ended up having to sedate the boy and remove part of his skull to reduce pressure on his brain. He suffered a second stroke and loss the ability to speak and move his limbs. After almost a year of physical therapy, the boy has almost fully recovered, but will never be able to participate in the team sports he once played due to his elevated risk for another stroke. His story illustrates how doctors often fail to diagnose pediatric strokes, which leads to delays in treatment.

Children at risk for strokes

Pediatric stroke, the clinical name for strokes that occur in those under 18 years of age, is one of the foremost causes of death for children in the U.S., with approximately six in 100,000 children suffer strokes annually. A stroke can happen at any stage of childhood, including the time a child is still in the womb and during the birth process. A stroke occurs in about one in every 3,000 live births. Children are most susceptible to stroke during the first year of life. Experts estimate that 40 to 50 percent of pediatric strokes occur in children aged 1 year and under.

Missing the signs of pediatric stroke

The symptoms of pediatric stroke are the same as the symptoms in adults, including:

  • Seizures, particularly in newborns
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty speaking or slurred speech
  • Weakness in one side of the body
  • Loss of vision

However, since many do not associate strokes with children, healthcare providers often misdiagnose pediatric stroke. Delays in administering life-saving treatment can cause children to suffer long-term effects. When strokes are diagnosed in children promptly, they have an almost 100 percent chance of recovery, given that children are far more adaptable than adults.

However, two-thirds of children who have strokes experience lasting complications. The complications can lead to huge medical costs. One study showed that the cost of caring for a child who suffered a stroke during the first year alone is $42,000 - not counting parents' lost wages for time spent caring for the child and not working.

Speak with an attorney

Watching a child suffer an illness is a parent's worst nightmare. The pain is doubled when doctors do not accurately diagnose what is wrong with the child and the child does not receive the treatment he or she needs to get better. If your child has suffered a stroke and a doctor failed to diagnose the problem, talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can help you recover an equitable settlement.

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