Many patients who have a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) are at an increased risk of stroke because they are not assessed soon enough in specialist clinics, suggest UK researchers.
UK guidelines recommend that all patients should be assessed within seven days of the start of TIA symptoms, though stroke nurse specialists warn even this time period is too long.
A study carried out by Manchester University found only 35% of TIA services saw patients within seven days of the onset of symptoms and some patients had to wait up to 12 days for a clinic appointment.
Of the 711 patients studied – all of whom had sustained a TIA or minor stroke in the past 15 days and had attended a TIA ‘rapid access’ clinic – researchers said 100 had a further TIA and 25 had a non-fatal stroke within three months.
Study author Craig Smith, a senior lecturer with the university’s clinical neuroscience group, said some studies put the number of people experiencing a major stroke within a week of a TIA as high as 10%.
‘If the speed with which TIA patients can be evaluated is improved, many strokes in the UK each year could be prevented,’ he said.
Yet stroke nurse specialists said patients needed to be seen within two days in order to start effective treatment.
Shaun Marten, a matron for elderly medicine who runs a rapid access TIA clinic at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, said: ‘A TIA is a warning sign. Patients need to be seen quickly so we can assess their risk factors for stroke and look at starting them on aspirin and statin therapy.
‘At our clinic we try to see all patients within 72 hours and, where possible, within 24 hours,’ he added.
The Manchester findings are due to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.