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Why Aren’t Doctors Using a Treatment for Strokes Known to Be Effective?

Suffering a stroke is a terrifying experience, and one that most people hope will never affect them or their loved ones. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is reduced or cut off entirely, and the effects of a stroke can be severe. The Mayo Clinic reports that complications and long-term side effects of a stroke include paralysis and loss of muscle movement, difficulting talking or swallowing, emotional complications, pain, memory and cognition problems, and an inability to perform self-care. In light of this, if there was an effective treatment for strokes, not using that treatment option would seem foolish and downright unacceptable. Which was exactly the theme of a recent article published in The New York Times, in which the author claims that an effective treatment for strokes exists, yet some doctors aren’t offering it.

Is There an Effective Treatment Option for Strokes?

When a stroke hits, which means that a clot blocks a blood vessel that is providing blood to the brain, the cells of the brain begin to die, and fast. Most of the time, patients and their loved ones can merely hope that the damage will not be too extensive.

22 years ago, a study was conducted on a promising new drug, a clot-buster called tissue plasminogen activator (TPA). The study had great results: data showed that the drug could actually prevent severe brain damage by opening up the blocked vessel. The data was so convincing at the time that it was collected that one doctor felt sure that there wouldn’t be much explanation needed, and that use of the drug amongst doctors for stroke victims would quickly become common.

Improper Treatment of Stroke Still Common

But the drug discovered more than two decades ago is still not used by all doctors who are treating stroke victims, with skeptics claiming that TPA is dangerous, and that it is better to let a stroke run its course. According to the Times’ article cited above, about 700,000 people suffer strokes as a result of blood clots every year, yet about 30 percent of these victims who would be great candidates for TPA do not receive the drug. Because the sooner that the drug is given, the better the results, timely action is critical to preventing brain damage. The results of not getting the drug can mean a lifetime of neurological damage that causes severe disability.

Your Rights As a Patient

As a patient who is suffering a stroke and who goes to a hospital for treatment, you have the right to receive TPA if you are eligible (i.e. come to the hospital on time, are a good candidate otherwise) and want the drug. In some cases, doctors will not even ask patients or their loved ones whether they want to consider TPA, refusing to offer it at all due to perceived dangers. While there is still plenty of research that needs to be done, data to this point supports the benefits of TPA, and doctors have a duty to, at the very least, offer it to their patients.

If you believe that you or a loved one has been denied TPA during a stroke, resulting in more severe brain damage than otherwise would have been incurred, you may have a claim for medical malpractice. Please contact our experienced medical malpractice attorneys at the law offices of Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. for your free consultation today.

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