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Stroke Health Center

Can You Recognize Symptoms of Minor Stroke?

Study Shows Many People Having a Minor Stroke Delay Prompt Treatment
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Call 911 With Stroke Symptoms

Calling 911 is important because patients who arrive at the hospital by ambulance tend to be evaluated far more quickly than those who walk into hospital ERs on their own, says Michael A. Sloan, MD, who directs the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Tampa General Hospital.

"For someone having a stroke, or even a TIA, minutes count," Sloan tells WebMD. "Each second that passes can mean 32,000 brain cells lost."

Prompt treatment with clot-busting thrombolytic drugs during a major stroke can prevent death and long-term disability.

For many years the cutoff for using intravenous tPA (a clot-busting drug) was thought to be three hours, but Sloan says it is now clear patients respond as long as four and one-half hours after strokes occur.

Prompt evaluation following a TIA is also important because it is now possible to predict major stroke risk fairly accurately with a model that scores factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, age, and duration and presentations of symptoms, Sloan says.

"Using this model we can tell patients if their risk is very low or very high," he says.

In the study, published in the journal Stroke, roughly three out of four patients said they went to their primary care doctor following TIA symptoms instead of seeking emergency care.

TIA patients were more likely to delay seeking treatment if they did not experience motor or speech impairment, if symptoms lasted only a few minutes, or if their symptoms occurred on a Friday, weekend, or holiday.

Surprisingly, almost one in three patients who had already had a stroke did not seek medical care in a timely manner.

Stroke is the third leading killer and the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association.

The study findings "indicate a lack of public awareness that TIA is a medical emergency," study researcher Arvind Chandratheva, MRCP, says in a news release.

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