Rhode Island Medical Malpractice and Brain Injury Diagnosis

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 1.7 million people suffer traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. every year. Unfortunately, many of these injuries are misdiagnosed, diagnosed late or not diagnosed at all.

When a patient suffers negative health consequences because of misdiagnosis of or failure to diagnose traumatic brain injury, he or she may be able to make a claim against the mistaken doctor in a Rhode Island medical-malpractice lawsuit.

Traumatic Brain Injury

The Mayo Clinic reports that traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be caused by a hit, blow or jolt to the head or by an object penetrating the skull. Brain tissues may be temporarily or permanently damaged by the force of the brain hitting the skull after impact or by direct contact with a penetrating object such as a knife or bullet. TBI may occur when the skull is fractured - in both open or closed fractures - or when the skull remains intact. In some cases there are no outward signs of brain injury, increasing the likelihood that the condition may be improperly diagnosed.

TBI may range in severity from mild to severe. Mild TBI causes a temporary dysfunction of the brain cells, whereas severe TBI may involve permanently damaged tissues and result in serious health complications.

Mild TBI is the most common type of brain injury, although the CDC estimates that about 52,000 people die from TBI each year. Falls are the leading cause of TBI, accounting for 35.2 percent of all TBI, and 17.3 percent of all traumatic brain injuries in the U.S. are attributable to motor-vehicle accidents.

Traumatic Brain Injury Symptoms

The signs of TBI are sometimes similar to symptoms of other conditions, which can make TBI difficult to identify. Further, some symptoms of TBI appear immediately, while others may take days or weeks to develop. The Mayo Clinic and the CDC list the following common symptoms of mild TBI:

  • Loss of consciousness for a few seconds or minutes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or poor balance and coordination
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Numbness weak limbs
  • Loss of memory, concentration or focus
  • Mood swings

The symptoms of moderate or severe TBI may be the same as mild TBI and may include these additional symptoms:

  • Bleeding and bruising on the head
  • Loss of consciousness for a few minutes, hours or longer
  • Seizures
  • Profound confusion
  • Lethargy and inability to wake up
  • Slurred speech
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vision changes
  • Combativeness and other behavioral changes

National Public Radio reports that an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people with even mild TBI experience persistent cognitive problems that limit their memory, concentration and ability to focus. Accordingly, health experts and patient-safety advocates say patients should begin cognitive rehabilitation therapy as soon as possible following brain injury to achieve the best possible health outcomes and to avoid other health concerns.

Misdiagnosis or Missed Diagnosis of TBI

Surgery, medication, rehabilitation and therapy are common treatments for TBI. It is imperative that patients receive the correct medical care after a brain injury. Sometimes doctors confuse the symptoms of TBI with those of other health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and headache disorders, which can be particularly detrimental for people with TBI.

Standard treatment for PTSD does not usually address cognitive or balance issues, and sedative medicine given to help people with PTSD sleep better may leave patients with TBI overly-sedated, reports National Public Radio.

Doctors' failure to properly diagnose TBI can cause patients to receive the wrong treatment and suffer unnecessary delays in their recovery processes. Because the consequences of TBI can be severe and must be addressed quickly, accurate and timely diagnosis is essential.

If a doctor fails to diagnose, misdiagnoses or improperly treats TBI, causing further harm to the patient, the patient may be able to make a negligence claim against the doctor in a medical-malpractice lawsuit. Through a lawsuit, the patient may be able to recover compensation for his or her medical expenses as well as pain and suffering.

If you or a loved one suffered TBI and it was not properly diagnosed or treated by a health-care provider, contact a medical malpractice lawyer with experience in misdiagnosis cases. Legal restrictions limit the amount of time you have to bring a claim, so contact a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney today to discuss your legal options.