By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS
A new survey shows that up to half of doctors feel uninformed about how to diagnose and treat the nearly 200,000 patients who suffer strokes of unknown cause each year.
The survey, released Thursday by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, found that depending on their specialty, 18 percent to 49 percent of physicians are unsure about the best approaches to diagnose and treat cryptogenic stroke, a stroke for which the underlying cause is still unknown after extensive testing.
The survey polled 652 neurologists, cardiologists, hospitalists, primary care physicians and stroke coordinators.
In response, the AHA/ASA will convene the Cryptogenic Stroke Public Health Conference on Friday in Washington, D.C. Leading healthcare providers will discuss the new survey findings and possibilities for a coordinated, systematic approach to diagnose and manage patients with cryptogenic stroke.
Statistics show that cryptogenic stroke patients should be concerned: A prior stroke is the No. 1 risk factor for a second stroke, and a second stroke is 16 times more likely to be fatal.
“The ability to discern the causes of cryptogenic strokes has profound implications for preventing secondary strokes and improving patient outcomes,” said Mary Ann Bauman, M.D., chair of the ASA’s advisory committee. “With the Cryptogenic Stroke Public Health Conference, we are coming together as a healthcare community to increase our knowledge about cryptogenic stroke and improve treatment.”
Healthcare professionals recognize that among other causes, atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that may occur only intermittently and thus be difficult to detect, can be a cause of cryptogenic stroke. Yet physicians are not always sure how best to detect the condition, according to the survey.
Other possible causes of cryptogenic stroke include patent foramen ovale, a hole between the heart’s upper chambers, and various blood clotting disorders.
“This is important,” Bauman said, “because stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of severe, long-term disability.”