Stroke symptoms and how doctors sometimes miss them

There’s no doubt that stroke diagnosis and treatment is getting a lot of attention these days.

Public awareness campaigns have done a great job in educating the public about ischemic strokes. Ischemic strokes are caused by blood clots and account for about 85% of all strokes. The American Stroke Association coined the term “FAST” to help us remember the signs of stroke: Facial droop, Arm weakness, Slurred speech, and Time to call 911.

If you think someone is having a stroke, it’s important to get to the hospital as soon as possible. The clot-busting drug, tPA, is one of the standard treatments for ischemic strokes and is very time-dependent. The tPA treatment window is 3 to 4.5 hours from the beginning of stroke symptoms in eligible patients.

Stroke treatment itself has also advanced in recent years, particularly with the advent of designated hospitals with special treatment expertise. The Joint Commission and DNV Healthcare, hospital-accrediting organizations, both have programs to certify hospitals as Primary Stroke Centers and Comprehensive Stroke Centers.

I’ve heard stroke team neurologists describe the difference in the quality of stroke care among hospitals in striking terms. Uncertified hospitals have basic capabilities. Primary stroke centers can handle basic strokes. Comprehensive stroke centers offer the highest standard of care and are equipped to handle even the most complex types of strokes.

Finding the cause

According to the Cleveland Clinic, about one-fourth of ischemic strokes end up being classified as cryptogenic, which means the cause is unknown. I believe that this number is so high because many doctors give up before finding an answer. One of the most overused explanations I've seen by physicians is chalking stroke symptoms up to a "psychogenic reaction," which basically means the symptoms are all imagined in the patient's head because of stress.

In my experience as a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, I’ve found that the level of stroke evaluation and workup varies widely from physician to physician—even at designated stroke centers.

In one case I’ve handled, a patient was misdiagnosed at a well-known comprehensive stroke center in the Texas Medical Center because she was only seen by an inexperienced young doctor still in training. In another lawsuit I filed, a man was seen at a primary stroke center in the Humble area, but the emergency room doctor never got the stroke team involved. Both of my clients were left with life-long injuries from these serious medical mistakes.

Stroke experts recommended a medical evaluation for stroke to include evaluating the heart, heart rhythm, and diagnostic radiology imaging (CT, MRI, CT angiogram, and/or MR angiogram scans) to assess the head and neck blood vessels and brain tissue.

Unfortunately, some doctors skip steps in the evaluation and diagnostic process and instead jump to a conclusion. This needlessly places their patients in danger. If you find yourself in this situation, it's important to speak up and ask for a second opinion by a fully-trained physician.

We are here to help

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by hospital or physician care, then the experienced medical malpractice stroke attorneys at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, are here to help. Click here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form or call us at 281-580-8800.

All consultations are free and, because we only represent clients on a contingency fee, you will owe us nothing unless we win your case. We handle cases in the Houston area and all over Texas. We are currently working on medical malpractice lawsuits in Houston, The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Conroe, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Bryan/College Station, and Waco.


Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. A member of the board of directors of the Houston Bar Association, he was honored, in 2017, by H Texas as one of Houston’s top lawyers. In May 2018, the Better Business Bureau recognized Painter Law Firm PLLC with its Award of Distinction.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.