Around 25,000 Britons and 150,000 Americans suffer a mini-stroke, or TIA (transient ischemic attack) every year - and, within a week of the initial attack, up to 1 in 10 will go on to suffer a major, and disabling, stroke.
This rate could be halved if doctors treated the TIA victim immediately, researchers have discovered.
The researchers set up a dedicated TIA centre in Oxfordshire, UK in 2002, where nine hospitals in the region referred their patients. Within two years, the clinic had abandoned its appointments system, and was treating patients as they walked through the door.
With the appointments system, around 10 per cent of TIA patients went on to have a full stroke within 90 days. But this rate dropped to just 2 per cent once the system was dropped in favour of immediate treatment.
Patients were given a range of drugs, from aspirin, statins, anti-hypertensives and anti-coagulants.
(Source: The Lancet, 2007; 370: 1432-42).