American Heart Association updates 'mini stroke' guidelines

November 03, 1999

DALLAS, Nov. 5 -- New blood thinning medications are among the significant medical and surgical advances that have occurred over the past five years for the treatment of "mini-strokes," that have led to updated guidelines that appear in this month's Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The updated TIA guidelines are aimed at helping physicians better treat patients who've had mini-strokes.

A "mini-stroke" is actually a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, which occurs when a blood clot briefly blocks an artery that supplies blood to the brain. The symptoms -- which may last only a few minutes or several hours -- include weakness or sudden loss of vision. TIAs are strong predictors of future strokes. An individual who has experienced a TIA is about 10 times more likely to suffer a major stroke than someone who has not.

The significant medical and surgical advances over the past five years that led to the updated guidelines are:"The addition of these two new antiplatelet medications offers physicians more options for treating stroke and TIA patients," says Gregory W. Albers, M.D., director of the Stanford Stroke Center, Stanford University Medical Center and associate professor of neurology/neurological sciences at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.

The updated TIA guidelines discuss each of the four antiplatelet agents now available to physicians, their potential side effects, and which patients are appropriate candidates for each of the blood-thinning medications.

Albers says another significant change in the updated guidelines is the lowering of the recommended dosages of aspirin to prevent stroke. "Some experts recommend much higher doses of aspirin therapy to prevent stroke in high-risk patients. Recent studies indicate that aspirin can be just as effective for stroke prevention at lower doses ranging from 50 to 325 milligrams. This means fewer side effects for patients," Albers says.The updated guidelines are an important tool for physicians, according to Ralph L. Sacco, M.D., associate chairman of neurology at Columbia University, New York, and a co-author of the updated TIA guidelines. "It's important for physicians to recognize the importance of these new TIA guidelines, and to follow them in order to ensure state-of-the-art treatment for TIAs into the new millennium," he says.

Co-authors of the updated guidelines are Robert G. Hart, M.D.; Helmi L. Lutsep, M.D.; and David W. Newell, M.D.
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American Heart Association

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