EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE UNTIL 4 PM ET, May 12, 2003
Public Doesn’t Know Symptoms of Mini-Stroke
Many with Symptoms Don’t Seek Medical Attention
St. Paul, Minn. – Public education is needed about the symptoms and risks of mini-stroke, also called transient ischemic attack or TIA, according to the first large study on the topic, which is published in the May 13 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study found that only 9 percent of people could give the definition of a TIA or identify a symptom of TIA. TIA symptoms are the same as those for a regular stroke, but TIA symptoms resolve themselves within 24 hours. The phone survey of more than 10,000 people found that 3.2 percent had TIA symptoms but never saw a physician about them. Among those with a TIA diagnosis, 16 percent saw the doctor more than a week after the symptoms occurred. “People think that because these symptoms go away quickly, they don’t need to worry about them, but that’s definitely not the case,” said study author and neurologist S. Claiborne Johnston, MD, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco. “People who’ve had a TIA are at high risk of having a stroke, particularly in the first few days after the TIA, and doctors can help them reduce that risk.” Johnston noted that people get to a hospital immediately, often through calling 911, for any stroke symptoms, even those that disappear. “Only a doctor can tell for sure whether you’re having a stroke or a TIA,” he said. “And if you’re having a stroke, emergency medical treatment could save your life and greatly improve your chances for successful rehabilitation and recovery.” Men, those in minority groups, and those with lower income and fewer years of education were less likely to be knowledgeable about TIA than others. The survey, sponsored by the National Stroke Association, involved 10,112 people who were chosen randomly, were 18 or older and spoke English. Of those, 2.3 percent reported having been told by a doctor that they had a TIA. That number translates into an estimated 4.9 million people in the United States who recall having a diagnosis of TIA, Johnston said. Those who were more likely to have a TIA diagnosis were people who were older, had lower income and/or had fewer years of education. The study found that 2.3 percent of participants had been diagnosed with a stroke. Of those, 19 percent recalled having had a TIA prior to the stroke. Johnston noted that the study is limited because participants were asked to remember events that happened months or years before. Another limitation was that some groups were not included in the sampling: those who declined to take the survey, those who did not speak English and those who do not have a telephone. Also, the survey did not include people living in institutions such as nursing homes, where the number of people with TIA and stroke would be expected to be greater. The most common stroke or TIA symptoms are: * Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body * Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding * Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes * Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination * Sudden severe headache with no known cause The study was supported by a grant to the National Stroke Association from Boehringer Ingelheim, Inc. Johnston is supported by grants from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with 32,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.