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BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Most guidelines now recommend that patients with minor stroke or high-risk transient ischemic attack (TIA) are assessed within 24 hours of their event, but the feasibility of this depends on patients' behavior. We studied behavior immediately after TIA and minor stroke according to clinical characteristics, patients' perception of the nature of the event, and their predicted stroke risk. METHODS: In a population-based study in Oxfordshire, UK, with face-to-face interview of 1000 consecutive patients with TIA and minor stroke (National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale < or =5) from 2002 to 2007 (Oxford Vascular Study), we studied delay in seeking medical attention and identified patients who did not seek attention after an initial event and only presented after a recurrent stroke. RESULTS: Of 1000 patients (459 TIAs, 541 minor strokes), 300 (67%) with TIA and 400 (74%) with minor stroke sought medical attention within 24 hours and 208 (47%) and 234 (46%), respectively, sought attention within 3 hours. Most patients (77%) first sought attention through their primary care physician. In patients with TIA, incorrect recognition of symptoms, absence of motor or speech symptoms, shorter duration of event, lower ABCD(2) score, no history of stroke or atrial fibrillation, and weekend presentation were associated with significantly longer delays. However, age, sex, social class, and educational level were all unrelated to either correct recognition of symptoms or to delay in seeking attention. Of 129 patients with TIA or minor stroke who had a recurrent stroke within 90 days, 41 (31%) did not seek medical attention after their initial event. These patients were more likely to have had a TIA (P=0.003), shorter duration of event (P=0.02), and a history of TIA (P=0.09) and less likely to have had motor (P=0.004) or speech symptoms (P=0.04) compared with those patients who sought medical attention for their initial event. CONCLUSIONS: Approximately 70% of patients do not correctly recognize their TIA or minor stroke, 30% delay seeking medical attention for >24 hours, regardless of age, sex, social class, or educational level, and approximately 30% of early recurrent strokes occur before seeking attention. Without more effective public education of all demographic groups, the full potential of acute prevention will not be realized.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1108 - 1114


Adult, Age Factors, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Attitude to Health, Brain Ischemia, England, Female, Humans, Interviews as Topic, Male, Middle Aged, Patient Education as Topic, Retrospective Studies, Sex Factors, Stroke, Time Factors