When 52-year-old Houston Texans Coach Gary Kubiak collapsed on the sidelines during the second quarter of last Sunday’s NFL game, he suffered a TIA (transient ischemic attack) before a stunned television audience. A TIA — often called a mini-‐stroke — occurs when the brain doesn't receive enough blood momentarily and produces stroke-‐like symptoms but no lasting damage, according to the American Stroke Association (ASA).
International TIA expert, Iftekhar Ahmed, MD, Medical Director of The Stroke Care Center at Research Medical Center, hopes Coach Kubiak’s medical situation serves as a wake-up call for millions of Americans about TIA and its risk factors and symptoms.
“A TIA’s symptoms appear similar to a stroke, but can resolve within minutes to hours,” says Dr. Ahmed. Recognizing and treating TIAs can reduce the risk of a major stroke.”
Dr. Ahmed, who has presented research findings on TIA and stroke at domestic and international conferences around the world, was a founder of the innovative TIA clinic at Research Medical Center —part of HCA Midwest Health System, Kansas City’s largest healthcare provider — in late 2008.
The TIA Clinics provide a comprehensive one-‐day, thorough evaluation for stroke in one convenient location, including evaluations that conclude with a consult from a board-‐certified neurologist. Test results are forwarded to the patient’s primary care provider in order to determine the best treatment plan.
According to the ASA, individuals experiencing a TIA are at a greater risk for a full stroke, especially if there are additional high-‐risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and/or a past or current history of smoking. Every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke; stroke is also the leading cause of death and disability in the country, impacting the lives of more than 795,000 annually.
“Accurate and timely diagnosis is key to anyone who experiences the onset of stroke so they can receive the most appropriate drugs and most advanced stroke treatment,” says Dr. Ahmed.
Dr. Ahmed cites the findings of a population-‐based Oxford University study published in 2009 as significant in understanding the importance of emergent intervention for TIAs.
“The statistics for stroke after TIA are compelling,” says Dr. Ahmed. “Ten to 15 percent of people with TIA have a stroke within two weeks and of those 17 percent have a stroke the same day. Another six percent of patients experience a stroke the day following TIA and more than 45 percent have a stroke in the seven days following. In 30 days following TIA, 30 percent are at stroke risk and in one year 60 percent of people with TIA are at stroke risk. Urgent intervention after TIA is highly effective for preventing stroke.”
Dr. Ahmed’s personal experience with TIA involved a 40-‐year-‐old friend who experienced classic stroke symptoms.
“He was at work when suddenly he couldn't write and his speech was slurred,” he says. “A 90 percent blockage was discovered on his left side. He underwent surgery to unblock the artery and sustained some immediate neurological damage. With rehab and time he has fully recovered, thanks to quick action on his family’s part. But if he had been seen at a TIA clinic, the stroke may have been prevented.”
Symptoms of a stroke may include one or more of the following: numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; difficulty seeing in one or both eyes; trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; and severe headache with no known cause. If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-‐1-‐1 immediately.
People experiencing any of these symptoms may need to be seen in an HCA Midwest Health System TIA clinic. Prompt medical attention for any of these symptoms could prevent occurrence of a fatal or disabling stroke.
To make an appointment at the HCA Midwest Health System TIA clinic nearest you, request a physician referral or call (800) 386-9355.