Scientists now claim that the effects of a daily dose of aspirin have been widely underestimated, in regard to benefits of the painkiller for stroke victims. A recent study published in The Lancet has revealed that potential for stroke can be reduced by up to 80 percent by aspirin during the first weeks of daily dosing. These findings were reported after studying 56,000 people taking aspirin each day.
When a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called a mini-stroke, happens in adults over 60 years of age, many of these patients are unaware that they have even had a stroke. The condition provides no symptoms from a brief lapse in blood supply to the brain. However, this type of stroke is often the precursor of a major stroke leading to debilitation or even death. One in 20 patients of the 46,000 suffering a minor stroke in the United Kingdom each year experience a second, major stroke within two days of the first incident.
One in 12 of these patients have the second, major stroke within a week after their minor TIA. Experts claim that daily aspirin dosing after a minor stroke can often prevent a more serious second stroke. Professor Peter Rothwell, an Oxford University stroke expert, claims, "Our findings confirm the effectiveness of urgent treatment after TIA and minor stroke - and show aspirin is the most important component." He continues by saying, "Immediate treatment with aspirin can substantially reduce the risk and severity of early recurrent stroke." When a minor stroke is believed to have occurred, an aspirin regimen can immediately and harmlessly be started even before a specialist has provided a final assessment and determination of the patient's condition. Andrew Marr, a BBC television personality, recently recovered from a major stroke. He asserts that his own "simple ignorance" caused him to dismiss the warning signals he suffered before his major stroke.
He had two mini-strokes just before the big one. Although Marr did not recognize the signs of his mini-strokes, thousands of people fail to do so before having a major stroke within days. Aspirin's positive effect toward prevention of subsequent strokes is not debated by most healthcare providers. The debate lies in when an aspirin regimen should begin. It is only after doctors have determined that a mini-stroke definitely occurred that they recommend patients start taking aspirin each day. These recommendations have helped about 15 percent of stroke patients avoid a subsequent, more major stroke occurrence. Because such diagnoses take time, researchers from Oxford are encouraging one of the first actions following suspected mini-stroke to be provision of aspirin for the patient. Professor Rothwell explained, "We showed previously in the Express Study that urgent medical treatment with a 'cocktail' of different drugs could reduce the one-week risk of stroke from about 10 per cent to about 2 per cent. But we didn't know which component of the 'cocktail' was most important." It was only in a more recent study that researchers realized that aspirin is most effective in the first days following a mini-stroke. Rothwell reviewed study data and determined that almost all of aspirin's benefit toward prevention of a subsequent major stroke lies within the first two weeks of the mini-stroke's occurrence. This power of aspirin to reduce subsequent stroke risk rises from 15 percent to 70 or 80 percent in the first days after TIA. Researchers encourage the public to take aspirin if they suspect they may have had a minor stroke, anytime they notice sudden and unfamiliar neurological symptoms.