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MONDAY, April 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Early signs and symptoms of stroke are often missed by emergency department doctors, a new study finds.
Women, minorities and those under age 45 are the most likely to be misdiagnosed, according to the study published online April 3 in the journal Diagnosis.
"It's clear that ER physicians need to be more discerning and vigilant in ruling out stroke, even in younger people," study leader Dr. David Newman-Toker, an associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, said in a Hopkins news release.
The study authors analyzed data from more than 187,000 people who visited more than 1,000 U.S. hospitals in nine states during 2008-09. They found that nearly 13 percent of people later admitted to the hospital with a stroke had been misdiagnosed and sent home from an ER in the 30 days before they were hospitalized.
Many of those misdiagnosed had dizziness and headache and were told they had less serious conditions such as ear infections or migraine, or they received no diagnosis at all, the study found. About half of those misdiagnosed were hospitalized with stroke within seven days, and more than half of those strokes occurred with 48 hours of misdiagnosis.
The risk of misdiagnosis was 33 percent higher in women and 20 percent to 30 percent higher in minorities, while younger people were nearly seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed, the researchers said.
Based on their findings, the researchers estimated that the number of missed strokes nationwide each year could be between 15,000 and 165,000. Differences in the health data routinely reported by states makes it difficult to estimate more precise numbers, Newman-Toker said in a Hopkins news release.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, April 3, 2014