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Using aspirin urgently could substantially reduce the risk of major strokes in patients who have minor 'warning' events, a group of European researchers has found. Writing in the Lancet, the team say that immediate self-treatment when patients experience stroke-like symptoms would considerably reduce the risk of major stroke over the next few days.

Aspirin is already given to people who have had a stroke or transient  ischaemic attack (TIA – often called a 'mini-stroke') to prevent further strokes after they have been assessed in hospital and in the longer-term, reducing the subsequent stroke risk by about 15%. However, based on a previous study in Oxford (the EXPRESS Study) the team suspected that the benefits of more immediate treatment with aspirin could be much greater.

Lead researcher Professor Peter Rothwell, a stroke expert from the University of Oxford, explained: 'The risk of a major stroke is very high immediately after a TIA or a minor stroke (about 1000 times higher than the background rate), but only for a few days. 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% to about 2%, but we didn’t know which component of the ‘cocktail’ was most important.'

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