Oxford University has advised that taking aspirin immediately after a minor stroke can reduce the damage caused by further strokes.
In a new study, published in the Lancet, Professor Peter Rothwell and colleagues found that aspirin was effective as urgent treatment following transient ischaemic attacks (TIA) and minor stroke.
People with diabetes have a greater risk of stroke, but maintaining good blood glucose levels and cholesterol can reduce this risk, as can smoking cessation and getting regular physical activity.
Aspirin is already given to patients who have experienced a TIA or minor stroke once they have been assessed in hospital, but the benefits have been “hugely underestimated”, according to Rothwell.
“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 attentio,” said Rothwell.
“Immediate treatment with aspirin can substantially reduce the risk and severity of early recurrent stroke. This finding has implications for doctors, who should give aspirin immediately if a TIA or minor stroke is suspected, rather than waiting for specialist assessment and investigations.”
Patients are more likely to have a major stroke in the days following TIA or minor strokes, and this can increase the risk of permanent symptoms. Urgent aspirin treatment was found to reduce this risk by 70-80 per cent.
The findings came from a review of 15 trials involving roughly 56,000 stroke patients, all of whom had taken aspirin immediately after a stroke or as long-term treatment to prevent a second one. Almost of all the benefits from aspirin treatment were experienced in the first few hours or days after an initial TIA or minor stroke.
The researchers estimate that immediate aspirin treatment following a first minor stroke could reduce the risk of a major strike from one in 20 people per day to one in 100.
“Many patients don’t seek medical attention at all and many delay for a few days. Half of recurrent strokes in people who have a TIA happen before they seek medical attention for the TIA,” added Rothwell.
“Encouraging people to take aspirin if they think they may have had a TIA or minor stroke – experiencing sudden onset unfamiliar neurological symptoms – could help to address this situation, particularly if urgent medical help is unavailable.”
Rothwell’s team are now calling for the NHS to introduce new guidelines recommending the drug as soon as possible if a patient is suspected to have suffered a TIA.

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