A new study in AJR calculates the cost to patients when imaging evaluation is incomplete, finding that people with transient ischemic attack (TIA) who didn’t get full imaging workups were 30% more likely to have a new stroke diagnosis within the next 90 days.
Some 240,000 people experience TIA annually in the US. While TIAs typically last only a few minutes and don’t cause lasting neurological damage, they can be a warning sign of future neurological events to come.
Medical imaging – typically CT and MRI – are key in the neurological workup of TIA patients, and TIA can be treated with antithrombotic therapy, which reduces the likelihood of a stroke 90 days later. Therefore, guidelines call for prompt neuroimaging of the brain and neck in TIA patients, typically within 48 hours, with MRI the primary and CT the secondary options.
But what happens if TIA patients don’t get complete imaging as part of their workup? To answer this question, researchers from Colorado and California analyzed a database of 111,417 people seen at 4,253 hospitals who presented to the ED with TIA symptoms from 2016 to 2017.
They tracked which patients received complete neurovascular imaging within 48 hours as part of their workup, then followed how many received a primary diagnosis of stroke within 90 days of the initial TIA encounter. Findings included:
- 62.7% of patients received brain imaging and complete neurovascular imaging (both head and neck) within 48 hours
- 37.3% received brain imaging but incomplete neurovascular imaging
- There was a higher rate of stroke at 90 days in TIA patients with incomplete imaging workup (7.0% vs. 4.4%)
- Patients with incomplete neurovascular imaging also had a greater chance of stroke at 90 days (OR=1.3)
While the benefits of neuroimaging for stroke have been demonstrated in the literature, imaging’s value for TIA has been less certain – until now. The AJR study shows that neuroimaging is just as vital for TIA workup, and it supports guidelines calling for cross-sectional imaging of the head and neck within 48 hours of TIA.