Medical Mistakes that Cause Strokes

Medical mistakes account for about 400,000 deaths annually in the United States alone. Medical errors, according to some estimates, contribute to as many as 20% of inpatient hospital admissions. A recent review of 107 clinical studies spanning almost 20 years noted that 7% of medication orders were documented as inaccurate. 

A stroke, one of the leading causes of death and disability, can occur as the result of a preventable medical complication.

A stroke caused by a medical or surgical error is referred to as an iatrogenic stroke- meaning a preventable stroke that arose as a consequence of therapeutic treatment.  Exact numbers and percentages of strokes that are iatrogenic are hard to pinpoint, but some of the more common causes of iatrogenic stroke have been identified. Find out which medical errors can lead to a stroke.

Neck Manipulation

Neck manipulation is a part of deep tissue massage therapy and chiropractic manipulation. The intense physical neck pressure is used as a method to offer much needed pain relief for hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. Yet, the American Heart Association Stroke Council's Scientific Statements Oversight Committee and the American Heart Association's Manuscript Oversight Committee warn people of the risk of stroke associated with high or low amplitude thrust applied to the upper neck.

Numerous cases of stroke after neck manipulation in healthy young people who are not considered at risk of stroke make neck manipulation a highly controversial potential cause of stroke.

Stroke survivors who have lived through this experience have fought hard to bring more research and awareness to the subject, warning the public of the dangers of neck manipulation.

Medication Mistakes

Medication errors include taking the wrong medicine or taking the incorrect dose.  Additionally, sometimes, dangerous medication interactions can occur when you are getting prescriptions from different doctors or filling your prescriptions at different pharmacies.

When it comes to stroke, powerful medications such as blood thinners can lead to a hemorrhagic stroke, even when the medications are prescribed appropriately. This may happen because some individual’s bodies simply respond differently to medications than the ‘average’ person.

Furthermore, a number of medications that are not blood thinners can result in a stroke, so read all prescription and over the counter labels carefully for side effects.


Surgery is no simple thing. Every surgery is a procedure that has its own risks. Brain surgery, heart surgery and blood vessel surgery in particular, while often necessary to protect the brain from serious damage, carry a greater risk of stroke.

But, it is important to keep in mind that all surgery carries a low risk of blood clots and stroke.

Intravenous Fluid

Intravenous fluid (IV fluid) is often necessary to save lives. But, miscalculated solutions can cause life-threatening, disabling strokes.

Hospital Acquired Infections

The hospital, itself, is often the place where patients can pick up infections that they would not otherwise have been exposed to. Serious infections increase the risk of stroke and may be particularly resistant to standard treatment, and thus difficult to get rid of.

What You Can Do

If you want to keep yourself and our loved ones from suffering an iatrogenic stroke, there are steps you can take.

  • Make sure you understand prescription directions thoroughly.
  • If you notice anything inconsistent in your medication names, doses or instructions, be sure to point it out to your health care providers sooner rather than later.
  • Carry your updated allergy and medication list with you at all times to ensure that in a medical emergency, health care providers will have the most accurate information about your health.
  • Try to get your prescriptions from the same pharmacy, or from the same pharmacy chain, if possible.
  • Tell your doctor AND your pharmacist about all non-prescription pills, vitamins, and herbs that you are taking.


Biller J, Sacco RL, Albuquerque FC, Demaerschalk BM, Fayed P, Long PH, Noorollah LD, Panagos PD, Schievink WI, Shuaib A, Thaler DE, Tirschwell DL; American Heart Association Stroke Council, Cervical arterial dissections and association with cervical manipulative therapy: a statement for healthcare professionals from the American heart association/American stroke association, Stroke, October 2014

Rolston JD, Bernstein M, Errors in Neurosurgery, Neurosurgery Clinics of America, April 2015

Measuring the Severity of Prescribing Errors: A Systematic Review, Sara Garfield,Matthew Reynolds, Liesbeth Dermont, and Bryony Dean Franklin, Drug Safety,, August 2013

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