The sudden onset of focal neurological symptoms implies a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or stroke. A diagnostic distinction can sometimes be made between patients with suspected TIA or stroke. For management purposes, however, patients with recent onset of focal neurological symptoms should be managed according to the continuing presence, or absence, of symptoms when assessed.
Focal symptoms include weakness of limb(s), facial weakness, and vision or speech disturbance.
Non-focal symptoms include generalised collapse, loss of consciousness, and confusion without focal signs.
Stroke Unit care (available in all NHSGGC hospitals) offers advantages in terms of mortality and time to discharge home for all stroke patients. Selected patients, approximately 10% of all admissions, may achieve additional advantage with IV thrombolysis. However, this requires to be given in specialised stroke units within 4.5 hours of the onset of symptoms, or when last known to be definitely well. Therefore, refer immediately to the acute stroke service either at:
See algorithm below which outlines the admission process of patients presenting with focal symptoms.
Guideline reviewed and content updated June 2021