Treating ‘Warning Stroke’ can save Lives


Although transient ischemic attacks (TIA) of the brain, caused by blood clots, are often labeled “mini-strokes,” they are more accurately characterized as “warning strokes” that people should take very seriously because they could mean a stroke will follow.

Now, the stroke unit at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center has opened a unique service that treats TIA patients and those who have had mild strokes.

Every year, some 15,000 Israelis are hospitalized after a stroke. Up to 25% had a barely noticed TIAs beforehand that should have alerted them of danger. The symptoms of the transitory attack were vision and speaking problems, weakness or numbness of the limbs that disappeared within 24 hours without treatment.

Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine recently found that the risk of having a stroke between two days and a year after a TIA was 50% if the TIA was treated immediately.

It is the first such center in the country that will accept patients referred to it by their family physician after they complain of TIA symptoms; they will be admitted immediately to the stroke center and not have to go through the emergency department first.

At the Jerusalem center, a neurologist assesses patients who complained of TIA symptoms to their personal physician. They are seen immediately by a hospital neurologist who conducts tests. Dr. Roni Eichel, head of the stroke unit, who runs the new service, said that after a TIA, patients have a “window of opportunity to prevent real loss. Their clot can be dissolved in time. Usually young people who complain of such symptoms in the average hospital emergency department are not taken seriously. Thus the attention they would receive from the TIA service, which operates Sundays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. can reduce the risk of paralysis significantly,” said Eichel.

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