Delays in the presentation to stroke services of patients with transient ischaemic attack and minor stroke.
Background: The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines state that carotid endarterectomy should be scheduled within 2 weeks of symptoms. The recent National Stroke Strategy has reduced the time interval to 48 h. This study aimed to review the possible delays.
Methods: This study analysed patients with confirmed transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or minor stroke, referred to a single tertiary centre clinic and followed up 1 month after the event. A questionnaire was used to collect data on the rapid-access clinic pathway, and details of previous medication and treatment.
Results: Some 150 patients presented with a confirmed TIA or minor stroke during a 5-month interval (June to October 2014). Fifty-one (34·0 per cent) had a history of TIA or stroke and 35 (23·3 per cent) had undergone an 'index' event in the 5 days before presentation. Forty-five patients (30·0 per cent) experienced a reduction or loss of vision. Of this group, 32 had a deficit in vision only, none of whom attributed these symptoms to a cerebrovascular event. Overall 92 (61·3 per cent) of the 150 patients had a delay in presentation to medical services. Forty-seven (31·3 per cent) had residual symptoms at the clinic appointment. Eighty-eight patients (58·7 per cent) did not think they were having a stroke and 54 (36·0 per cent) were unaware of the National Stroke Strategy (FAST campaign - Face, Arm, Speech, Time).
Conclusion: Two-thirds of patients were not aware they were having a stroke, one-third were unaware of the FAST campaign and nearly one-third presented with eye symptoms. Inclusion of eye symptoms and reaffirmation of the need to react might avoid unnecessary delays in the presentation of patients with TIA and minor stroke.