Calgary researchers say a new study involving 200 patients from Alberta could change the way hospitals treat mini-strokes and prevent them from developing into major strokes.
The study looked at whether an anti-clotting drug combined with aspirin can reduce the risk of a major stroke after someone suffers a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or mini-stroke.
A TIA is a warning stroke that produces stroke-like symptoms, such as sudden numbness of the face, arm or leg, but does not result in disabling neurological effects.
'Time is crucial when treating patients who have suffered a stroke.'—Dr. Michael Hill, study co-author
Dr. Michael Hill, the study's co-author and a neurologist at Calgary's Foothills Hospital, said patients who have mini-strokes often suffer serious strokes within 48 hours.
The study found the drug therapy reduces a person's risk of a big stroke by four per cent. That means for every 25 patients treated, one stroke was prevented.
"It's very encouraging and it tells us that, in fact, we can modify the natural history of patients who have TIA or mini-stroke. We can actually prevent them from having full-blown strokes," Hill said Wednesday.
More significantly, Hill said the research also showed hospitals should treat people with mini-strokes in the emergency room, rather than sending them to medical clinics.
"Time is crucial when treating patients who have suffered a stroke," Hill said. "We've shown that the paradigm of treatment should be changed, that we need to treat TIA as an emergency."
The study involved 392 patients at 18 health centres across Canada and the U.S. and is published in the Oct. 10 online issue of Lancet Neurology.
Hill said he plans to build on the small pilot study and conduct a larger international trial.