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'Mini-Strokes' May Be More Damaging Than Thought
Date:9/14/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Many people who have "mini-strokes" struggle with serious, lingering disabilities, even though the condition typically is considered too mild to treat, Canadian researchers report.

The findings suggest that it might be time to rethink that "hands-off" approach, they added.

Although powerful drugs such as tissue plasminogen activators (tPA) usually are given to patients who have suffered major strokes to restore blood flow to the brain, some people experiencing mild strokes (TIAs) might also benefit from such medications, the researchers said.

"About 80 percent of the patients we see are in that mild stroke category; only a small proportion have big strokes," said lead researcher Dr. Shelagh Coutts, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Calgary. "This is the largest proportion of patients we see."

Many of the patients with TIAs need to be seen more quickly in the emergency room, Coutts said. "These patients need to be seen early and decisions made about treatment made quickly," she said.

The report was published in the Sept. 13 issue of Stroke.

Coutts's team found that among almost 500 TIA patients, 15 percent had at least a minor disability three months after their mini-stroke. A minor disability is one that prevents a person from doing activities they once did, such as driving, but doesn't limit one's handling of their personal affairs, Coutts said.

CT scans found some patients had narrowed blood vessels in the brain, while others had ongoing or worsening symptoms. Patients with those problems were at more than twice the risk of having a disability 90 days after their TIA, the researchers found.

These patients are the ones most likely to benefit from a low dose of a clot-busting drug, such as tPA, Coutts noted.

In addition, patients with type 2 diabetes had a high risk of disa
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