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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 July, 2004, 23:26 GMT 00:26 UK
'Action needed on mini-strokes'
Over 130,000 people in England and Wales have a stroke each year
People who have so-called mini-strokes should be assessed by specialists within days rather than weeks, say doctors.

The Royal College of Physicians said this could prevent many people going on to have full strokes.

At present, people who have mini-strokes can wait weeks to be assessed by specialist doctors in NHS hospitals.

New guidelines from the college suggest they should now be seen within a maximum of seven days.

The college also recommends that people who have more than one mini-stroke in a week should be seen by specialists immediately.

Bloodflow blocked

Mini-strokes, or transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs), occur when bloodflow to the brain is blocked. This can cause eyesight or brain problems. However, unlike full strokes, these symptoms disappear within 24 hours.

Overall, 130,000 people in England and Wales have a stroke each year. One in three will die within a month. Another third will never fully recover.

A transient ischaemic attack is a warning sign
Dr Tony Rudd,
Royal College of Physicians
These latest guidelines aim to reduce the numbers who go on to have full strokes and to increase the numbers who fully recover after a stroke.

Dr Tony Rudd, chairman of the group that drew up the guidelines, said they were based on a recent study which suggested patients could benefit from early treatment.

"Recent evidence has shown that the risk of progressing on to a proper stroke is much higher than previously thought," he told BBC News Online.

People who have had a mini-stroke can often benefit from blood thinning drugs or other treatments to reduce their blood pressure or cholesterol.

Some may even be offered pre-emptive surgery to widen their arteries and prevent further blocks in bloodflow to the brain.

"A TIA is a warning sign," said Dr Rudd. "We can offer treatment to reduce those risks."

The guidelines also state that people who have had strokes should be screened for cognitive problems, such as memory or concentration impairment, "as soon as is practicable".

"This does not always happen," Dr Marian Walker, a senior lecturer in stroke rehabilitation at Nottingham University told BBC News Online.

"Cognitive impairment is very common after stroke but in some instances people are not routinely screened."

The Stroke Association welcomed the new guidelines.

"These guidelines from the Royal College of Physicians provide comprehensive advice on the best care pathways for stroke patients," it said in a statement.

"The Stroke Association hopes that they are adopted by primary care trusts and the Department of Health to enable continued improvements to the current acute, rehabilitation and community services that the 130,000 people who have a stroke each year in England and Wales receive."

NHS 'is failing stroke patients'
13 Nov 03  |  Health
Many strokes could be prevented
02 Jul 03  |  Health
Surgery 'halves risk of stroke'
07 May 04  |  Health


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