Don't ignore that funny turn - it could be deadly mini-stroke

Recovering from a mini-stroke - Peter McCarthy gets advice from consultant Paul Guyler after his own health scare

Recovering from a mini-stroke - Peter McCarthy gets advice from consultant Paul Guyler after his own health scare

First published in News

SOUTHEND Hospital is at the forefront of a campaign to raise awareness of mini-strokes.

Transient Ischaemic Attacks (TIAs), or mini-strokes, affect someone for a short time before disappearing, leaving the patient unscathed.

They are often ignored by patients who believe they have just had a “funny turn” and even if a patient visits their GP, the symptoms are often dismissed as nothing to worry about.

However, they are far from harmless events and can often lead to full-blown, potentially fatal strokes.

The Stroke Association campaign, Not Just a Funny Turn, has been launched to change this attitude and Southend Hospital’s TIA service features in a booklet for the campaign.

The hospital’s unique referral system, which sees patients receive the fastest assessment and treatment possible, is highlighted in the publication as a beacon of how to save lives and minimise the damage done by strokes.

Unlike many areas, Southend offers 24-hour, seven days a week access to cutting-edge stroke treatment and rehabilition.

The hospital’s online referral system was launched in 2012.

It allows GPs and other health professionals to assess a patient’s risk of a stroke and send the information direct to the TIA clinic team. It also gives GPs advice on giving immediate treatment Peter McCarthy, 74, from Shoebury, visited his GP after having a dizzy spell and was referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist at the hospital.

Mr McCarthy was then sent to the stroke unit for tests, where it was discovered he had a blockage in a blood vessel in his neck.

Speaking hours after receiving treatment on the unit last week, he said: “I was all over the place.

“I couldn’t walk without holding on to something. But I was treated and now I feel fine.

“The unit is phenomenal and the nurses are brilliant. There’s no better place to be if you have a stroke.”

Consultant Paul Guyler said: “We discovered Mr McCarthy had been having a mini-stroke.

“The scan showed there was a restricted flow of blood to the back of the brain, which had affected his balance.

“Mini-strokes are often dismissed by doctors, but they are not benign. About 12 to 20 per cent of people suffering them go on to have a stroke – most within 24 to 48 hours. So if we can give early treatment, it is far better.”

Those referred to the TIA clinic will undergo a range of checks, including blood tests and MRI scans.

If necessary, they will then be treated with clot-busting drugs or, in extreme cases, with immediate surgery.

Many patients who have suffered TIAs are able to return home the same day if their condition stabilises.

Others, like Mr McCarthy, are kept in for a short stay to ensure they need no further treatment before being discharged with follow-up appointments.

The importance of raising awareness of TIAs, not just to the public, but also to health professionals, is vital, says consultant Devesh Sinha.

He said: “A typical stroke is straightforward to diagnose, but TIAs are difficult.

“Even we can find them difficult to diagnose sometimes and we see them every day. About half of all those referred to the TIA clinic turn out not to be TIAs, but it is better to see those patients to be sure.”

Dr Guyler added: “If we save just one patient from dying of a stroke, it is all worthwhile.”

SYMPTOMS INCLUDE:

facial weakness, arm weakness and speech problems.

Risk factors for having a TIA or stroke are:

Age: As you get older a person’s arteries can become harder and narrower.

Gender: Men are at a much higher risk of suffering one than women, and at an earlier age 

Ethnic background: South Asian and black people in the UK are more at risk than white people

Family history: Someone with a close relative who has had a stroke or TIA are at greater risk 

Certain medical conditions: These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation and diabetes, which can increase the risk of having a stroke

Lifestyle: An unhealthy diet, too much alcohol, smoking and lack of exercise

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