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Diagnosing A Subarachnoid Haemorrhage

Diagnosing A Subarachnoid Haemorrhage

If you or your loved one has suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage but doctors failed to make a timely diagnosis, causing additional injury, there will be grounds for a medical negligence compensation claim.

What is a subarachnoid haemorrhage?

A subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) is a type of stroke. It is caused by bleeding on the brain, usually from a burst aneurysm. This will have two adverse consequences: firstly, the blood leaking onto the brain will damage the brain tissue; secondly, the blood supply will be disrupted, starving the brain of oxygen. This can lead to permanent brain damage and, if not treated in time, death.

Anyone can suffer a SAH although they are most common in women, and in people between the ages of 40 and 65. Around one in 20 strokes will be a SAH, making up 9,000 hospital admissions every year in the UK.

How to diagnose a subarachnoid haemorrhage

If a patient presents to hospital with the typical symptoms of a SAH, he or she must undergo immediate investigation. The diagnostic tool of choice is a CT scan. However, this should not be performed alone as it is possible for a patient with a subarachnoid haemorrhage to have a normal CT scan.

Therefore a scan should be carried out in conjunction with a lumbar puncture, whereby a needle is inserted into the lower part of the spine and a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) extracted. This can be tested to diagnose a subarachnoid haemorrhage. During the lumbar puncture pressure measurements should also be recorded as this will indicate whether there are any problems affecting the brain.

If there is any doubt regarding a diagnosis, a second opinion should be sought from a senior doctor.

Delayed diagnosis of a subarachnoid haemorrhage

If a patient is displaying signs of a SAH but medical professionals fail to make a timely diagnosis, questions must be raised as to why a diagnosis was delayed. If medical error is to blame, there will be grounds for a medical negligence compensation claim. This might arise, for example, if medical professionals:-

  • Failed to recognise the symptoms of a SAH and so did not order further tests;
  • Failed to accurately interpret the initial CT scan;
  • Failed to carry out tests other than a CT scan to ensure a SAH was not present;
  • Failed to obtain a second opinion/more senior review;
  • Failed to refer a patient to a neurologist.

If you or your loved one has suffered complications because of a subarachnoid haemorrhage and you believe medical error is to blame, talk to a medical negligence solicitor about your options.

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