ISLAMABAD: People should consider taking aspirin immediately after a minor stroke to prevent or limit the harm caused by further strokes, researchers said.Oxford University scientists say though doctors are already advised to give the drug, the benefits of taking it early on have been “hugely underestimated” and treatment is sometimes delayed. Writing in the Lancet, they call for clearer medical and public guidelines. NHS England says it will carefully consider the findings of the study.
Minor strokes and TIAs (transient ischaemic attacks or mini-strokes) occur when there is an interruption of blood flow to the brain – they can cause weakness to the limbs or problems with speech or vision and symptoms usually disappear within days.But the chance of going on to have a major stroke – with more permanent symptoms – is higher in the days after an attack. Previous studies have suggested aspirin plays some part in reducing this, particularly in the long-term, by reducing the risk of blood clots forming, or thinning the blood.
But the team of scientists said that their findings show most of the benefit lies in the first crucial hours and days after a minor stroke or TIA. They estimate taking early aspirin treatment at this point could reduce the risk of having a major stroke from one in 20 people per day to one in 100. Lead researcher Professor Peter Rothwell said the benefits of immediate aspirin therapy had been “hugely underestimated”.He added: “We need to encourage people, if they think they’ve had some neurological symptoms that might be a minor stroke or TIA, to take aspirin immediately, as well as ideally seeking medical attention.”
Researchers now call for medical services – including paramedics and NHS helplines – to recommend the drug as soon as possible if a TIA is suspected. Meanwhile they say it is essential that patients who have a minor stroke are not just sent home from the emergency department with advice to add aspirin on to their next prescription.
The team reviewed data from 15 trials, involving thousands of people who had taken aspirin immediately after a stroke or as long-term treatment to prevent a second one. Dr Dale Webb, at the Stroke Association charity, described the trial as an exciting development.
He added: “However, it’s important to note that taking aspirin is not an alternative to seeking medical attention. Anyone who thinks they are having a TIA should always call 999 immediately.” “And the findings suggest that anyone who has stroke symptoms, which are improving while they are awaiting urgent medical attention can, if they are able, take aspirin.”