Scientists from Oxford University, studying stroke data, have discovered that taking aspirin as soon as possible after a transient ischaemic attack or TIA can substantially reduce the risk of a patient experiencing a major stroke. The risk of a major stroke after a TIA or mini-stroke can be very high for a few days unless the patient seeks treatment, but urgent medical treatment which involves a number of different drugs could reduce the risk. One of those drugs was aspirin, which in other trials has proved to not be effective as a long-term benefit. Short-term benefit of the drug appears to be much greater.
The scientists from the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden reviewed data from twelve trials which examined the use of aspirin for long-term prevention of a further stroke. About 16,000 people were involved in the trials. They also examined the data from around 40,000 people which used aspirin as a treatment of acute stroke.
The results showed that aspirin worked best in reducing the risk of another stroke when it was taken in the first few weeks. It also seemed to reduce the impact of a stroke. It reduced the early risk of a stroke which could kill or disable by over 70% during the first few weeks. This has implications for doctors who, based on the results of these trials, are being recommended to give aspirin immediately if a minor-stroke is suspected or diagnosed.
The scientists also recommend that the information be made public. Although poster campaigns have encouraged people to seek help sooner after a stroke, they are not as effective when it comes to mini-strokes. Some patients don’t seek help at all or they may delay in seeking medical attention. Recurrent strokes can happen in up to half of the people who had had a TIA before they have had treatment. The scientists recommend that people who think that they may have suffered a TIA can take one dose of 300 mg aspirin for to help alleviate symptoms immediately, if they are able to swallow, and then seek medical attention by calling the emergency services.
The symptoms of a mini-stroke or TIA are very similar to those of a stroke, although they may last for a shorter time. The FAST test may be used to check the warning signs:
Facial weakness – can the person smile or has their mouth or eye drooped?
Arm weakness – can the person raise both arms?
Speech problems – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
Time to call 999
Other symptoms which can appear during a TIA include weakness or numbness on one side of the body, loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both eyes, memory loss, confusion or a sudden fall.