Misdiagnosed Strokes

While everyone is encouraged to learn how to recognize the signs of stroke, made memorable with the acronym FAST (Face droop, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties, Time to call 911), it’s understandable when non-medical family or friends do not recognize signs of stroke in a timely manner. It is less understandable when a patient is in a hospital or goes to the emergency room. And yet, many strokes are misdiagnosed every year by medical experts.

Misdiagnoses in the hospital

An estimated 17% of all strokes occur while a patient is in the hospital for another reason. These strokes go undetected for hours for many reasons: a shortage of staff to frequently monitor the patient; sedation, oxygen mask, or IV in the arm that prevent recognition of the most typical signs of stroke; or misdiagnosis of the symptoms as being caused by a medical procedure or by a comorbidity factor rather than by a stroke.

Misdiagnoses in the Emergency Department

An estimated 15,000 to 165,000 strokes are believed to be misdiagnosed in emergency departments (EDs) annually in the U.S. While this estimate may seem quite broad, it represents a range from potential to probable misdiagnoses, based on a review of hospital databases from 2008-09 across nine states.

A review of the data indicated that misdiagnoses were most common among women, minorities, and patients under 45. In fact, younger people were seven times more likely to be incorrectly diagnosed and sent home without treatment, according to the study by David E. Newman-Toker MD, Ph.D. Women were 33% more likely to be misdiagnosed, and minorities 20-30% more likely.

This study, which is the first large-scale study of its kind to quantify stroke misdiagnosis, looked at hospital records of patients discharged after hospitalization due to stroke and compared them to the ED records of these patients in the preceding 30 days.

The study found that 12.7% of these patients had visited the ED within 30 days with at least some stroke symptoms, and the study judged that 1.2% of visits to the ED had been for probable stroke. None of these patients was diagnosed with a stroke during their first visit to emergency services.

The most common complaints that patients at the ED had were severe headaches, migraines, spots in the eyes, dizziness, and difficulty with coordination and walking. Patients were often diagnosed with inner ear problems, intoxication, or migraines. Some received no diagnosis at all.

Results of errors

Misdiagnosis may account for 40,000 to 80,000 preventable deaths annually in U.S. hospitals and countless permanent disabilities. Small studies suggest that patient outcomes are worse when a stroke diagnosis is missed; risk of death or severe disability may be three to eight times greater for stroke patients whose previous strokes were missed and went untreated.

This is why Neuralert Technologies is so committed to ending the devastation caused by misdiagnosed strokes, whether at home, in the emergency room, or in the hospital. The non-invasive wristband technology is linked to our patented AI computer algorithm that detects asymmetry in arm movement, a hallmark symptom of stroke, while modeling out other causes of asymmetry. With Neuralert, medical professionals have a powerful tool to help them speed up the diagnosis of possible strokes, potentially decreasing the risk of misdiagnosis and averting severe outcomes. Contact us to find out how you can partner with Neuralert for your patients.