Ministrokes occur much more frequently than most doctors believe, and primary-care physicians are not as thorough as they should be in evaluating these patients, according to two recent national studies.
About 5 million adults have been diagnosed with a ministroke or transient ischemic attack, according to a national poll of 10,112 adults sponsored by the National Stroke Association. In another survey for NSA, only 37 percent of 200 primary-care physicians reported regularly consulting a neurologist when diagnosing TIA. Only 23 percent said they would use a head CT scan and only 5 percent would use MRI, both critical tests in the evaluation and treatment of TIA.
TIAs, caused by a brief interruption of blood flow to the brain, are similar to strokes except they resolve themselves in a few minutes and generally don't cause permanent damage. However, says Dr. Pierre Fayad at Yale-New Haven Hospital, TIAs are a warning sign of a full stroke later.