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Diagnosis and Management of Transient Ischemic Attack and Acute Ischemic StrokeA Review

Educational Objective
To review the clinical management of transient ischemic attack and acute ischemic stroke.
1 Credit CME

Importance  Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States, affecting nearly 800 000 individuals annually.

Observations  Sudden neurologic dysfunction caused by focal brain ischemia with imaging evidence of acute infarction defines acute ischemic stroke (AIS), while an ischemic episode with neurologic deficits but without acute infarction defines transient ischemic attack (TIA). An estimated 7.5% to 17.4% of patients with TIA will have a stroke in the next 3 months. Patients presenting with nondisabling AIS or high-risk TIA (defined as a score ≥4 on the age, blood pressure, clinical symptoms, duration, diabetes [ABCD2] instrument; range, 0-7 [7 indicating worst stroke risk]), who do not have severe carotid stenosis or atrial fibrillation, should receive dual antiplatelet therapy with aspirin and clopidigrel within 24 hours of presentation. Subsequently, combined aspirin and clopidigrel for 3 weeks followed by single antiplatelet therapy reduces stroke risk from 7.8% to 5.2% (hazard ratio, 0.66 [95% CI, 0.56-0.77]). Patients with symptomatic carotid stenosis should receive carotid revascularization and single antiplatelet therapy, and those with atrial fibrillation should receive anticoagulation. In patients presenting with AIS and disabling deficits interfering with activities of daily living, intravenous alteplase improves the likelihood of minimal or no disability by 39% with intravenous recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (IV rtPA) vs 26% with placebo (odds ratio [OR], 1.6 [95% CI, 1.1-2.6]) when administered within 3 hours of presentation and by 35.3% with IV rtPA vs 30.1% with placebo (OR, 1.3 [95% CI, 1.1-1.5]) when administered within 3 to 4.5 hours of presentation. Patients with disabling AIS due to anterior circulation large-vessel occlusions are more likely to be functionally independent when treated with mechanical thrombectomy within 6 hours of presentation vs medical therapy alone (46.0% vs 26.5%; OR, 2.49 [95% CI, 1.76-3.53]) or when treated within 6 to 24 hours after symptom onset if they have a large ratio of ischemic to infarcted tissue on brain magnetic resonance diffusion or computed tomography perfusion imaging (modified Rankin Scale score 0-2: 53% vs 18%; OR, 4.92 [95% CI, 2.87-8.44]).

Conclusions and Relevance  Dual antiplatelet therapy initiated within 24 hours of symptom onset and continued for 3 weeks reduces stroke risk in select patients with high-risk TIA and minor stroke. For select patients with disabling AIS, thrombolysis within 4.5 hours and mechanical thrombectomy within 24 hours after symptom onset improves functional outcomes.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Shyam Prabhakaran, MD, MS, Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, 5841 S Maryland Ave, MC 2030, A-223, Chicago, IL 60637 (shyam1@neurology.bsd.uchicago.edu).

Accepted for Publication: December 28, 2020.

Author Contributions: Dr Prabhakaran had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: Both authors.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Both authors.

Drafting of the manuscript: Both authors.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Both authors.

Administrative, technical, or material support: Mendelson.

Supervision: Prabhakaran.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Mendelson reports no disclosures. Dr Prabhakaran reports receipt of grants from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; consulting fees from Abbvie; and royalties from UpToDate.

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