Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), which cause stroke-like symptoms that go away after a short time, can be an indication that a major stroke will occur within days. An article in the March 8 issue of Neurology concludes that physicians need to act quickly to investigate these events. As the Los Angeles Times reported,
“We have known for some time that TIAs are often a precursor to a major stroke,” said Dr. Peter Rothwell, a neurologist at Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, England. What we haven’t been able to determine is how urgently patients must be assessed following a TIA in order to receive the most effective preventive treatment. This study indicates that the timing of a TIA is critical, and the most effective treatments should be initiated within hours of a TIA in order to prevent a major attack.”
Translating this finding into patient care will require making it easier for patients to gain access to their doctors on short notice. This could increase the likelihood that patients will report TIA symptoms –which can be vague– and get rapid diagnosis and treatment. I’ll bet many people ignore TIAs rather than heading to the ER or attempting to reach their doctor after hours.