STROKE
May 25, 2010

Mini-Strokes Are Not Minor

TiAs, or transient ischemic attacks, are very often warning signs of an impending stroke. Too few seek treatment for them.

New research from the University of Oxford finds that less than half of people who have mini-strokes or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) get to a doctor fast enough. Previous research has shown that having a TIA seriously ups one risk of having a second, more serious stroke.

Of the 129 patients who had a major stroke soon after the minor stroke or TIA, 30% of them had failed to seek any kind of medical care... there is clearly a lack of awareness – not necessarily about the symptoms of TIA or stroke, but rather about the necessity to seek medical care quickly.

Because of the likelihood of major stroke occurring on the heels of a TIA, it is critically important to get prompt medical care after a TIA as a preventative measure. But the research team, led by Arvind Chandratheva, wondered how many people who had TIAs or minor strokes were actually getting to a hospital fast enough – or at all. The team looked at data from 1,000 stroke patients participating in another heart-related study. They found that of the 459 patients who’d had a TIA, 67% saw a medical professional within the first 24 hours, and 47% sought medical help within the first 3 hours. Among patients who had minor strokes, the numbers were similar: 74% saw a doctor within the first 24 hours, and 46% within the first three hours.

Of the 129 patients who had a major stroke soon after the minor stroke or TIA, 30% of them had failed to seek any kind of medical care.

The authors point out that was no connection between socioeconomic status, educational level, age, or gender in whether or not people sought treatment after TIA or minor stroke. They say that there is clearly a lack of awareness – not necessarily about the symptoms of TIA or stroke, but rather about the necessity to seek medical care quickly. And this, they say, is a public education matter. Chandratheva and his team write that “[t]o date, most [public awareness] campaigns have focused on symptom recognition, but we found that even when patients correctly recognized the event, they often did not seek attention urgently, suggesting that public education should focus more strongly on the need to seek medical attention as soon as possible.”

They add that “[w]ithout more effective public education of all demographic groups, the full potential of acute prevention will not be realized.”

The study was published in the April 15, 2010 issue of the journal Stroke.

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