Incorrect Stroke Diagnoses: 'Mimics' and 'Chameleons'


Outcomes from ischemic stroke, which results from impaired blood flow to the brain caused by a blood clot or narrowed artery, can be significantly improved when blood flow is quickly restored to the brain. But stroke treatments can cause substantial harm if the patient is incorrectly diagnosed due to a “mimic” (a medical condition that presents like a stroke but isn’t) or a “chameleon” (an ischemic stroke that presents like a different condition), according to researchers at Loyola Medicine in Maywood, Illinois.

The exact incidence of stroke mimics and chameleons is unknown, but it may include up to 38 percent of people admitted to the hospital for a suspected stroke. Examples of stroke mimics include:

  • Dizziness (vertigo)
  • Drug and alcohol toxicity
  • Low blood sugar
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Seizures
  • Sepsis
  • SMART syndrome (stroke-like migraine attacks after radiation therapy)
  • Viral encephalitis

Symptoms of stroke chameleons include nausea and vomiting with decreased mental activity.

Sourced from: Neuroimaging Clinics