Multiple sclerosis (MS) and stroke are two distinct medical conditions, but they have a few things in common.
To begin with, both diagnoses are extremely serious.
MS is a chronic health condition that can fundamentally alter quality of life and may even be totally debilitating to the patient.
Stroke, meanwhile, is a life-threatening medical emergency. Even those who survive stroke may suffer permanent cognitive and/or physical disabilities, typically requiring extensive rehabilitative therapy and long-term medical care.
But MS and strokes have more in common than just the severity of their diagnosis. The two conditions can also cause similar symptoms. Ominously, if you experience one, you may be more likely to suffer the other. And too often, doctors overlook or confuse the two diagnoses.
So, what are your rights if multiple sclerosis was diagnosed as a stroke? What is the relationship of risk between these two conditions? We offer a brief answer to these questions below.
Stroke Misdiagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
A recent study by the American Academy of Neurology, reported in Medical News Today, found that nearly 1 in 5 people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis do not actually have MS. Instead, they may suffer from a number of other, unrelated medical conditions that cause similar symptoms, including stroke.
“MS and stroke are very different conditions,” notes the report,“but they both harm the brain. Some of the symptoms they share include attention issues, dizziness, numbness in the limbs, slurring, visual impairment, and difficulty in walking.”
Many of the patients studied actually received unnecessary and potentially dangerous MS treatments, subjecting their body and brain to unwarranted harm. Some of the patients received these treatments for more than four years before doctors realized the error.
In a separate study of over 200 patients by UCLA and the University of Vermont at Burlington, researchers noted that in their study group alone, the cost of unnecessary treatment reached nearly $10 million.
Missed Stroke Diagnosis in Patients Who Already Have Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
People with MS may, in some circumstances, be more likely to experience a stroke. But because strokes can present with MS-like symptoms, doctors may mistakenly conclude that the stroke is simply a flare-up, recurrence, or worsening of the underlying MS.
A few years ago, a newspaper in Washington ran a heartbreaking story of a man with multiple sclerosis whose MS was in remission. When he had a stroke, doctors dismissed it as his MS acting up. Because he did not receive critical stroke intervention when he needed it, he now suffers lifelong disabilities — not because of his MS (which is still in remission) but because of the missed stroke diagnosis.
At least one leading MS medication, Lemtrada, is known to present a risk of stroke.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Misdiagnosed as a Stroke
In yet another report from The American Academy of Neurology, researchers warned about the risk of mistaking MS for a stroke.
A patient who was believed to be suffering a stroke was treated accordingly and later died from a seizure. On autopsy, it became apparent that he had never suffered a stroke at all. Instead, he had multiple sclerosis.
“MS plaques can present acutely and simulate strokes, even in MRI,” the researchers warn.
Accordingly, doctors should be aware of the possibility that an apparent stroke may in fact be an MS-related “pseudo-stroke.”
Florida Doctors Have a Duty to Diagnose Serious Medical Conditions Accurately
Both multiple sclerosis and stroke require accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. In the case of a stroke, patients may have only minutes or hours to receive life-saving medical treatment. And left untreated, MS can cause unnecessary suffering, physical disability, financial damages, and life-threatening complications (including seizure, respiratory failure, choking, and other concerns). Early treatment can often make a profound difference in the trajectory of MS.
For these reasons, it is imperative that doctors, hospitals, nurses, and other health care providers exercise due care in examining, diagnosing, and treating patients.
Among other things, doctors should be aware of the possibility that strokes and MS can present with similar symptoms and take proper diagnostic precautions accordingly.
Failure to diagnose, failure to treat, and misdiagnosis are frequently the result of simple medical carelessness.
If you or your loved one has suffered because multiple sclerosis was misdiagnosed as a stroke (or vice versa), you may be entitled to financial compensation under Florida law. The Miami medical malpractice attorneys at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC can help.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Miami Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Kaire & Heffernan, LLC is a Miami medical malpractice law firm with years of experience in helping Florida families recover the full and fair financial justice they deserve.
If you have been misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis or a stroke, we encourage you to contact our office and learn more about your rights under Florida law.
We will not charge you a fee for our services unless and until we recover compensation in your case. And your initial consultation is absolutely free.
To learn more, contact Kaire & Heffernan, LLC and request a free, no-obligation consultation today.