American Heart Association updates 'mini stroke' guidelines

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:

  • New antiplatelet agents. These "blood thinners" help to prevent blood clots from forming and are an alternative to aspirin for patients who cannot tolerate aspirin or have had a TIA despite aspirin therapy. The new antiplatelet drugs are clopidogrel, which can be used alone, and dipyridamole, which is most effective when used in combination with aspirin.

"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 si

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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