There is a medical term for when a stroke causes a spinal cord injury: a spinal stroke. A spinal stroke can happen if blood cannot flow to the spinal cord, either because of a clot or a burst artery. Even though this isn’t a common type of stroke, accounting for only 1% of all strokes, the risk is still prominent.
And, if you’ve experienced such a stroke, misdiagnosis may, unfortunately, be the source of or have worsened the problem. Doctors may mistake your neurological symptoms for another type of spinal cord injury or condition, missing the crucial signs. If you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury due to a misdiagnosed spinal stroke, you may be able to secure compensation for your injuries.
The Snyder Law Group fights for victims of spinal cord injuries from car accidents, medical procedures, and spinal strokes. A spinal cord injury can forever change the trajectory of your life and, in some cases, result in death. When doctors make mistakes that lead patients to suffer spinal injuries, our team of Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers holds them accountable and fights for compensation for the victim and their loved ones.
How Does a Spinal Stroke Happen?
A spinal stroke happens when a blood clot or a burst artery interferes with blood flow to the spine. Several different kinds of strokes can lead to a spinal cord injury. Ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes can injure the spine, as can a transient ischemic attack (TIA), although it is far more uncommon. If a patient has a TIA and the doctors do not adequately identify and treat it or the underlying cause of the TIA, it increases the patient’s risk of an adverse event, such as a spinal cord injury.
What Are the Symptoms of a Spinal Stroke?
Patients suffering a spinal stroke may experience a range of symptoms. For example, the body may experience severe neck or back pain or muscle weakness in the legs. These signs may impact the patient suddenly, occurring minutes, hours, or days before the spinal stroke appears in full force, and may even cause paralysis.
Other symptoms of a spinal stroke include the following:
- Sharp or burning sensations on your back,
- Incontinence or loss of bladder control,
- Loss of feeling of the temperature of parts of your body,
- Inability to feel pain in parts of your body, and
- Leg weakness.
, Doctors, nurses, and other staff should take care to document and address your complaints if you experience these worrying symptoms. If you clearly communicated these concerns to your medical team and they did not act appropriately, they may be responsible for your spinal stroke injury.
What Are the Different Types of Spinal Strokes?
A spinal stroke occurs within the spinal cord or the arteries supplying blood to it. Three types of strokes can cause damage to the spinal cord, namely:
- Spinal cord transient ischemic attacks,
- Ischemic strokes, and
- Hemorrhagic strokes.
Ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes are far more common types of strokes than spinal cord transient ischemic attacks. But each of these has its own risk factors and underlying causes that can lead to spinal injuries. If you suffered a spinal stroke because of a misdiagnosis, consider contacting a Baltimore spinal cord injuries lawyer. They can investigate your claim and determine if a doctor or nurse may have contributed to or failed to prevent or mitigate the harm to your spinal cord.
Spinal Cord Transient Ischemic Attack (sTIA)
A spinal cord transient ischemic attack, or sTIA, is a transient ischemic attack (also called a ministroke or TIA) that briefly interrupts the blood flow to the spine. In many cases, the blockage disturbs the normal flow of blood to the spine for five minutes or less. As the Mayo Clinic explains, TIAs are often a warning sign that a full-blown stroke is imminent.
The signs of a TIA mimic that of a “full” stroke, with the symptoms occurring with far less intensity and for far less time than an actual stroke. As the Mayo Clinic warns, TIAs can cause the following symptoms:
- Difficulty speaking,
- Vision changes,
- Mobility or coordination issues,
- Pain or discomfort near the location of the blood clot.
TIAs may be caused by a smaller clot that runs the risk of growing into a larger blockage, leading to a full stroke. Or it can be a sign that something is amiss medically, such as a swelling artery or dangerously high blood pressure.
The Mayo Clinic cautions that someone’s risk of a full stroke is highest within 24 to 48 hours after experiencing a TIA. For this reason, it is imperative for medical staff to promptly document, treat, and monitor the patient’s symptoms.
An ischemic stroke occurs due to blood clots, either because of a larger blood clot or because a piece of a clot broke off and moved throughout the bloodstream. Blood clots can form all over the body in many different arteries and then travel through the bloodstream to spinal arteries. When this occurs, the arteries narrow in a process called atherosclerosis.
Blood clots can form due to fatty acids building up in the bloodstream. People with heart problems, diabetes, and high blood pressure are at a higher risk for an ischemic stroke, as are those who smoke or drink. While it is a common belief that strokes only happen to the elderly, anyone at any age can be the victim of one.
As explained in the National Library of Medicine’s publication on the matter, spinal cord ischemia can develop spontaneously (typically as a byproduct of another condition) or occur after a procedure. In many cases, certain aortic surgeries increase the risk that spinal cord ischemia will occur. Diseases linked to a condition called atherosclerotic disease are the leading cause of death in the United States. The National Library of Medicine reports that, according to a large study, this condition is responsible for approximately 33% of spinal cord ischemia.
During aortic surgery, if surgeons abruptly apply or remove clamps to certain arteries and tissues, the risk of the patient developing spinal cord ischemia can increase. Likewise, after an aortic grafting procedure, the National Library of Medicine explains, patients are at a higher risk of permanent injuries resulting from a spinal cord ischemic stroke. Patients should be vigilant about their health and possible medical errors that may have caused their spinal injury.
When a blood vessel near the spine bursts and causes internal bleeding, this can cause a hemorrhagic stroke. Blood vessels will pop if they are under extreme stress. For example, someone with high blood pressure is at risk of developing a hemorrhagic stroke from a burst blood vessel. Likewise, someone may suffer from an aneurysm, which is the result of a blood vessel swelling to the point of bursting. Near the spine, this kind of activity can cause serious damage and may lead to a stroke.
Hemorrhagic spinal strokes are less common than ischemic strokes, but they do occur, and they can be quite serious. Like an ischemic stroke, symptoms of a hemorrhagic stroke can range from incontinence to leg pain and weakness, numbness, and muscle spasms. When the blood vessel or artery bursts, it can prevent the spinal cord from receiving the vital oxygen and nutrients it needs to stay alive.
The damage from a spinal stroke can be permanent and can sometimes lead to death from complications, such as deep vein thrombosis if the person is paraplegic. In other cases, there is a possibility for partial rehabilitation after years of intensive therapeutic intervention.
Can I Receive Compensation for a Spinal Stroke?
You may be entitled to compensation if a doctor, nurse, hospital, or other healthcare provider caused or contributed to your spinal stroke. For example, if they negligently performed an aortic surgery, and you suffered a spinal hemorrhagic stroke afterward, they may be held liable under Maryland or Washington, D.C., law.
Further, if medical professionals failed to address the warning signs that you were about to suffer a stroke in the ER, this may also support a legal claim against them. Even nursing home negligence can lead to or worsen the effects of a spinal stroke.
Negligence forms the basis of most medical malpractice claims, which requires patients to prove the following to have a valid case:
- Duty of care. The healthcare professional owed you a duty of care to follow generally accepted standards of medicine and act reasonably based on their knowledge and experience.
- Breach of duty of care. The medical professional failed to follow their duty of care, such as by acting inappropriately or failing to act when they should have.
- Causation. The medical professional’s breach of duty caused or contributed to your injury.
- Damages. You suffered physical, psychological, or financial harm because of the breach.
A medical malpractice attorney can help you prove the elements of negligence and craft a solid argument to present to the court. In most medical malpractice cases, you must seek verification from a licensed doctor or healthcare professional that you have a valid claim. A malpractice attorney can help you seek this verification and meet the other legal requirements necessary to bring a lawsuit.
The Snyder Law Group can help you receive compensation if medical malpractice caused your spinal cord injury!
The Snyder Law Group, LLC, proudly represents clients throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. Our experienced Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys understand the frustration of going up against an insurance company, medical professional, or another party that refuses to accept liability for negligent or reckless behavior. You can take heart in knowing our talented and experienced lawyers are ready to work for you. We are experienced in handling personal injury claims of medical malpractice or injury and have secured hundreds of millions in verdicts and settlements*. Please visit our website, www.410thefirm.com, for more information and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and LinkedIn.