Gibson, Josephine and Watkins, Caroline Leigh
People’s experiences of the impact of transient ischaemic attack and its consequences: qualitative study.
Journal Of Advanced Nursing, 68
Aim. This paper is a report of a study of how people’s experiences of transient ischaemic attack affect their perception of their health and their uptake of health maintenance measures.
Background. Transient ischaemic attack is a well-recognized warning sign of subsequent stroke, but early diagnosis and management of risk factors can substantially reduce this risk. Even though the physical effects of a transient ischaemic attack are transient, it is known to negatively affect quality of life. However, no qualitative studies have explored the impact of transient ischaemic attack on people’s everyday lives.
Methods. Sixteen participants were recruited from a vascular surgery clinic in a district general hospital in North West England. All had a recent transient ischaemic attack. A qualitative grounded theory study using detailed interviews (n = 21) was conducted.
Findings. Participants experienced conflict between acknowledgement of the transient ischaemic attack as a significant illness episode with implications for their long-term health, and denial of its seriousness. Although they often ignored the initial signs, participants also experienced fear due to increased awareness of their risk of stroke. Often, they believed that they were having a permanent stroke. Many participants were prompted to seek medical advice by a family member or acquaintance. Having a transient ischaemic attack negatively changed their perception of their health and their quality of life, but some also viewed it as a positive event that had warned of their stroke risk and enabled them to take up health maintenance measures.
Conclusions. Having a transient ischaemic attack permanently changes people’s quality of life and their perception of their health, despite the transience of the symptoms. The ability of people to make positive health changes after a transient ischaemic attack to some extent ameliorates the negative effects of being aware of their heightened stroke risk. Their appreciation of their quality of life may also be enhanced. The transience of the symptoms and lack of knowledge of transient ischaemic attacks lead to delays in seeking medical advice.