Harvard Women's Health Watch

Prompt attention to “ministrokes” may reduce risk of subsequent stroke

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Having a "ministroke," or transient ischemic attack (TIA), has long been associated with a 12% to 20% risk of having a major stroke within the next three months. An international team of researchers studied a global registry of stroke patients to determine whether that prediction was still accurate.

The team studied the records of 4,789 people with TIAs, about 80% of whom received care from stroke specialists within 24 hours of experiencing symptoms. The patients were given MRI or CT scans to detect causes, and those who had evidence of blockages in vessels to the brain or conditions like atrial fibrillation that increase stroke risk received the appropriate therapy. Within the next three months, less than 4% of the patients had a full-blown stroke.

The results, published April 21, 2016, in The New England Journal of Medicine, underscore the importance of recognizing the symptoms of a TIA—sudden weakness, numbness, confusion, and difficulty walking or talking—and getting medical attention, even if the symptoms go away on their own. It should be a wake-up call for women, who are more likely to urge family and friends to get emergency care than to seek it for themselves, especially since so many effective treatments are available.