It is shocking that in a recent study, conducted by a team or Researchers led by Professor Andrew Wilson of the University of Leicester, it was discovered that of over 270 patients who had recently been diagnosed with a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) only a minority sought medical attention within the time frame recommended by the Royal College of Physicians.
Often known as “Mini Strokes” a TIA is a temporary disruption of blood flow to the brain. This causes symptoms similar to those of a stroke including speech and visual disturbance and numbness or weakness in the arms and legs. However a TIA will resolve within less than a day’s time and will leave the patient apparently completely healthy with no lasting symptoms. If the patient suffers any lasting symptoms then the patient has suffered a full stroke and not a TIA.
Despite being left in seemingly full health a TIA will leave the patient substantially more likely to suffer a full stroke or even a heart attack within the next 6 months. Following a TIA the patient is most at risk of a stroke or heart attack within the first 48 hours which is why it is critical that early medical attention be sought in order to prevent this from occurring.
TIAs should be considered medical emergencies but figures disclosed in the study by the University of Leicester suggest this is often not the case. Professor Andrew Wilson interviewed 222 patients from a TIA rapid response clinic, all of whom had been diagnosed as suffering a TIA. Of the 133 patients assessed as high risk only 11 (8%) sought medical attention within the recommended time frame of 24 hours and of the 89 patients assessed as low risk only 47 (53%) sought medical attention within the recommended time frame of 7 days.
Factors contributing to the delay in treatment included a failure to recognise the symptoms and contact the emergency services. This is despite the F.A.S.T advertising campaign promoting the awareness of the symptoms of a TIA including Face and Arm weakness, Speech difficulties, Time to call 999.
A patient can only do so much themselves and the burden of identifying a TIA also rests with the medical professionals to correctly diagnose and provide appropriate treatment within the relevant time frame.
The study found that there were several service factors which contributed to the delay in treatment as most patients would see their GP, on some occasions having more than one consultation, before being referred to a hospital or TIA clinic.
Professor Wilson recommends that the referral process should be streamlined: “Patients are encouraged to respond urgently to symptoms, but when they do so, a significant number are referred back to their GP. Our findings suggest that referral pathways from emergency departments and acute medical units could be improved.”
Although a TIA is over within a day and the patient may feel fine the potential full stroke which follows could result in permanent brain damage, paralysis, and serious cardiovascular problems.
You should treat a TIA as an early warning sign to give you time to prevent a potentially life altering stroke taking place. If you believe you have suffered a TIA you should call 999 immediately, even if you feel fine. The consequences of not doing so could be life-changing.
At Morrish Solicitors we regularly see the devastation caused when a TIA goes undiagnosed by medical professionals. Cases involving the misdiagnosis and failure to provide treatment for a TIA are very difficult and people need the best legal advice available. If you believe that you or someone you know has suffered a TIA which has been misdiagnosed by a medical professional resulting in further damage then contact the Morrish Solicitors’ specialist Clinical Negligence Team for help on 033 3344 9600. or complete our contact us form.