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CNN Today

Some Patients Get Important Early Warnings in the Form of Mini- Strokes

Aired February 10, 2000 - 1:37 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Stroke is the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer, and some patients actually get early warning stroke.

As CNN medical correspondent Rhonda Rowland reports, that's when it's time to sit up and take notice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You could have a mini-stroke and not know it. The medical term is TIA, or transient ischemic attack. It's caused by a brief interruption of blood flow to the brain. With a TIA, there's no permanent damage. Symptoms may last only a few minutes and disappear within a day.

DR. MARIAN EVATT, WESLEY WOODS GERIATRIC CENTER: TIAs can be mistaken for passing-out spells, seizures, they can mistake it for cutting off the blood supply in an arm, for example, and falling asleep, my arm falling asleep.

ROWLAND: Signs of a TIA are the same as those for a stroke, such as sudden numbness or weakness, difficulty seeing, speaking or walking, sudden confusion or a severe headache. A new study presented at the American Stroke Association conference shows, while these mini- strokes are usually not dangerous, they are serious warning signals.

More than one in 10 patients go on to have a major stroke within three months. Almost 60 percent occur in the first week and 74 percent in the first month. The health risk doesn't stop there. Within three months following a mini-stroke, 26 percent of patients have either a major stroke, another TIA, are hospitalization for heart trouble or die.

EVATT: A TIA is like a warning sign that -- get in and get evaluated, because if something can be done now would be the time to do it, not after you've had the stroke.

ROWLAND: Another study presented at the meeting shows while most people saw their doctor the day their TIA symptoms occurred, almost a third did not have further medical tests or evaluations.

EVATT: They should go probably to their local emergency room, where they can get studies such as a CKey scan (ph), perhaps, or an MRI scan.

ROWLAND (on camera): A survey of 10,000 Americans conducted by the National Stroke Association shows two-and-a-half percent of all adults have been diagnosed with a mini-stroke. Doctors had thought the figure was closer to one percent. The survey also found as many as a million adults may have suffered a TIA and not realized it.

(voice-over): Recognizing the signs of a mini-stroke and getting medical attention quickly when the symptoms appear is the best way doctors say to avoid a second, more-debilitated stroke.

Rhonda Rowland, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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