A very brief transient ischemic attack is as much a medical emergency as a rash of symptoms lasting one full hour.
Sometimes, people who have experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA) are not given clot-busting drugs because their doctors don’t consider the condition serious enough to treat, says a study.
A TIA is a “mini stroke,” meaning, a blood clot forms in a blood vessel in the brain, blocking blood flow from that vessel to wherever in the brain it feeds. That portion of the brain then suffers.
However, a transient ischemic attack, like its name says, is temporary. The clot dissolves, sometimes in under a minute, leaving the patient with no lasting effects; the patient may feel perfectly normal just a few minutes after a TIA.
A study at Foothills Hospital in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, shows that TIA patients, as well as those who had a minor stroke, “are at significant risk of disability and need early assessment and treatment,” states Shelagh Coutts, MD, the study’s lead author.
No matter how minor the TIA symptoms are, Dr. Coutts says that early imaging of patients is crucial, and that the administration of clot-busting drugs is critical if the imaging reveals a blockage in the brain.
A TIA of one symptom that lasts 20 seconds is just as significant as one that lasts an hour and consists of multiple symptoms.
Whether it lasts 10 seconds or an hour, the same thing happens: a blood clot forms in the brain.
This is not something to take lightly, regardless of duration! The type of symptom is determined by the location of the stopped blood flow.
The study authors state that clot-busting treatment is not typically given because transient ischemic attacks are often deemed too mild to treat.
The study involved 499 patients. Fifteen percent had at least a minor disability 90 days following their transient ischemic attack.
CAT scans revealed that some of the transient ischemic attack patients’ brains had narrowed blood vessels.
Other patients reported continuing or worsening symptoms. These individuals were more than twice as likely to suffer disability at the 90 day mark.
Dr. Coutts urges that clot-busting treatment be considered with these patients. Dr. Coutts says, “For every second after a mini stroke, the patient’s brain may be losing oxygen — possibly leading to a major event.”
She adds that there is a correlation between what the CT scan finds (narrowed blood vessel) and high risk of disability.
If you even slightly suspect a TIA, and the ER doctor or your regular doctor don’t seem too concerned, point out to them that in 2009, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association urged immediate action plus thorough testing for a transient ischemic attack — tests that are very similar to those given after a full-blown stroke.
The report reminds people that even though TIA symptoms “may pass quickly,” you should “immediately go to the hospital” to get the proper scans.