Hospital is best place for minor stroke victims

Jul 20 2015

Neurologist Professor Chris Levi

After almost three years of research, preliminary results reveal some concerning truths about how people in the community who experience a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or minor stroke interact with our health system.

Early results suggest that two in every three people who experience TIA or minor stroke will go to their General Practitioner rather than the emergency department at a local hospital as the first port of call.

Additionally, patients find it difficult, or do not recognise the urgency of their situation often putting it down to a “funny turn” and delaying seeking medical attention.

Professor Chris Levi, Director Clinical Research & Translation said that these preliminary findings were some cause for concern.

“TIA or minor stroke may be an early warning sign of something worse to come,” said Professor Levi.

“Early diagnosis and treatment can greatly reduce the chance of a major stroke.”

TIA occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted; often by a small clot.

“If we can begin treatment and symptoms improve quickly within minutes to an hour we might be able to prevent a patient from deteriorating. If the symptoms persist for longer than two hours a stroke diagnosis is more likely,” said Professor Levi.

While these results indicate that there may be some work to do in educating the community on managing their health concerns, the results to date are not all cause for concern.

“Access to initial healthcare and neruo-imaging after TIA or minor stroke does not appear to be greatly compromising the outcomes for rural patients,” said Professor Levi.

“These results may be the direct result of the considerable work, education and support that is being provided to ambulance, hospitals and general practices around the notification of stroke and TIA. It is great to see this effort is paying off.”

The INSIST (International Study of Systems of Care in Minor Stroke and TIA) study includes patients from 17 general practices across the Hunter and Manning Valley regions and involves the identification of any patients who have experienced a recent TIA or minor stroke.

INSIST is an important study that will enable better patient management and development of Australia specific clinical guidelines.

* Professor Chris Levi researches in conjunction with HMRI’s Brain and Mental Health research program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.