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Fleeting ‘mini-strokes’ suffered by 50,000 Britons a year may have a long-lasting impact, experts warn. Mini-strokes, also called transient ischaemic attacks or TIAs, are usually considered a short-term issue and are often dismissed as exhaustion, a migraine or a ‘funny turn’. When they are taken seriously at all, it is usually because they can be a warning sign that a major stroke is on the way.

New findings from SPCR trainee Dr Grace Turner and researchers at the University of Birmingham challenge the ‘transient’ nature of mini-strokes and provide insight into the long term impact of an under-recognised condition. TIA patients in the study consulted their GPs more frequently than similarly aged patients for fatigue, cognitive impairment and anxiety or depression.

There have been a number of small studies which suggest long term impacts of TIA, but nothing on this scale, and nothing that included a control group for comparison. It’s further evidence of how we can use electronic patient records to further our knowledge and improve patient care.”

- Dr Grace Turner, University of Birmingham

A mini-stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is momentarily disrupted, causing numbness in the face, arms and legs which usually resolves within a few minutes. Most patients dismiss the episodes because they feel they have recovered soon afterwards.

The findings, published in the European Journal of Neurology, reveal that 45 per cent of patients who suffer a mini-stroke experience lasting cognitive impairment. Grace says the findings present an urgent need to revisit clinical guidelines for TIA, "They can no longer be considered “transient” or “temporary”, there is a potential long-term impact. In some cases people may not be able to return to work, or participate in social activities, and there is a very real impact on their quality of life.’

Paper in the European Journal of Neurology "Ongoing impairments following transient ischaemic attach: retrospective cohort study"

Read the University of Birmingham press release.

Read the article in the Daily Mail Online.

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