Stroke or Bell’s Palsy: Would Your Hospital Know the Difference?

Doctor discussing prescription with patient

In the medical world, there are countless conditions, diseases, and medical events, each with unique and sometimes shared symptoms. Determining your diagnosis can be difficult. But with the availability of improved knowledge and technology, doctors and hospital personnel are more equipped than ever to make accurate diagnoses.

There are some basic exams that a physician can administer which will help them assess whether a patient is having a stroke. This is called the NIH (National Institute of Health) stroke scale.

Bells Palsy and Stroke Symptom Similarities

When it comes to shared symptoms, Bell’s Palsy and strokes can be easily confused by someone unfamiliar with both. Because of the urgent nature of a stroke, an accurate diagnosis is crucial.

Both a stroke and Bell’s Palsy can cause patients to have partial facial paralysis, which is why one is occasionally mistaken for the other. Either can render an entire side of your face immobile. But aside from this symptom, the cause can be entirely different.

The cause of Bell’s Palsy is often unknown, but the paralysis occurs when there is nerve damage on one side of the face. It can happen suddenly, such as overnight, leaving one side of your face drooping, and even affecting your sense of taste. Unlike a stroke, however, Bell’s Palsy usually gets better on its own after a few weeks, according to WebMD.

A stroke is a life-threatening event which occurs when there is a lack of blood flow to a certain part of the brain. Unlike Bell’s Palsy, however, the partial paralysis can affect the entire body. Because stroke treatment within the first few hours can mean the difference between life and death, correctly diagnosing such an event is crucial.

Key Differences Between Stroke and Bell’s Palsy

One of the key ways for a physician to differentiate between a stroke and Bell’s Palsy is to assess whether the “forehead is spared” – which simply refers to whether or not the patient is able to move his or her forehead. According to a recent study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, if a patient cannot move his forehead, then the diagnosis is likely Bell’s Palsy. However, a patient who can move his forehead, despite partial paralysis of the face, is significantly more likely to be experiencing a stroke. This subtle difference should allow emergency room doctors to correctly differentiate between the two.

A recent study from the University of California showed that emergency room physicians are usually correct when diagnosing Bell’s Palsy. They don’t often mistake it for a stroke or vice versa. As Science Daily reports, the study looked at more than 43,000 patient records and found that almost none of them received an alternate diagnosis at 90-day follow-up.

Generally, doctors should know the difference between two different conditions like Bell’s Palsy and a stroke. Nevertheless, diagnostic errors remain one of the most common medical mistakes.

If a stroke is the result of a blockage or clot, it is possible that immediate treatment may make a difference in a patient’s outcome. Because delayed diagnosis of a stroke caused by a blockage or clot can lead to serious or fatal complications, the correct diagnosis can be very important.

Indianapolis Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you are the victim of a missed or delayed diagnosis, you could be entitled to compensation. Contact the medical malpractice lawyer at the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson to discuss your case and how we might be able to help. Call 833-4MEDMAL today.

Injured patients and their families need solid legal guidance after a serious medical error. At the Law Office of Kelley J. Johnson, we listen attentively to our clients’ questions and concerns. Our goal is to help them move forward after devastating, even fatal medical errors.