Mini-strokes – A Medical Emergency

A mini stroke, known medically as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), is a forewarning that a full stroke will soon occur. It is therefore vital they are quickly diagnosed and the appropriate treatment provided, as this will prove instrumental in minimising further complications. If a mini-stroke fails to be recognised, however, a patient could be left with permanent neurological damage.

Urgent Assessment.

According to the National Strategy for Stroke, everyone who has had a TIA must be considered for urgent assessment. Thus it is important that a mini-stroke is correctly diagnosed as fast as possible. When doing so, the ‘FAST’ warning signs must be looked for:-

* Face – the face may fall to one side or the mouth may droop;

* Arms – there may be a weakness or numbness in the arms;

* Speech – speech may become slurred;

* Time – if these symptoms last for less than 24 hours, it is probably not a full stroke. Even so, urgent medical attention is still required.

If someone has experienced these symptoms, medical professionals should immediately be alerted to the possibility of a mini-stroke. A patient should then be urgently referred to a specialist for further testing.

The National Strategy for Stroke also sets certain time limits for urgent assessment. For example, if symptoms are severe or a patient is considered at-risk, there is an increased chance of a full stroke occurring. Such high risk cases must therefore be seen be a specialist within 24 hours. On the other hand, lower risk cases must be seen within 7 days.

The Importance of Diagnosing a Mini Stroke.

Having an assessment in a specialist stroke unit will greatly reduce the chance of another TIA or a full stroke from happening. A patient will undergo brain scans and other tests, helping to speed up a diagnosis. The appropriate treatment can then be provided.

However, problems will undoubtedly arise if the signs and symptoms of a mini-stroke are not recognised. Without urgent referral, the risk of a full stroke occurring becomes much more likely. In fact, there is a one in 10 chance that without treatment for a TIA, a full stroke will happen within four weeks. This can leave a patient will permanent disability, or it may even prove to be fatal. A mini-stroke must therefore be considered a medical emergency, meaning a fast diagnosis is essential.

Failure to Diagnose a Mini-Stroke.

Patients who have suffered a TIA often fail to seek medical attention, as symptoms usually subside within 24 hours. However, if you do experience the ‘FAST’ warning signs listed above, it is important to attend your GP or A&E without delay.

Nevertheless, what happens if you seek the help of health professionals, who then fail to diagnose a suspected mini-stroke? In such cases, the patient’s welfare will be put in danger, as he/she will face an increased risk of a full stroke. Without urgent referral to a specialist and timely treatment, the chance of long-term complications becomes a very real possibility.

If this has happened to you or a loved one, you need to speak to a medical negligence solicitor. Failing to identify a TIA and act upon this suspected diagnosis is unacceptable, and could be regarded as a substandard level of care. If so, you will be able to make a medical negligence claim which will help you to recover compensation for the pain and suffering that has been caused.

Copyright (c) 2012 Julie Glynn

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