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BMJ Open. 2013 Jul 24;3(7). pii: e003195. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-003195. Print 2013.

Transient neurological symptoms in the older population: report of a prospective cohort study--the Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Ageing Study (CFAS).

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Primary Care Unit, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Strangeways Laboratory, Worts Causeway, Cambridge, UK.



Transient ischaemic attack (TIA) is a recognised risk factor for stroke in the older population requiring timely assessment and treatment by a specialist. The need for such TIA services is driven by the epidemiology of transient neurological symptoms, which may not be caused by TIA. We report prevalence and incidence of transient neurological symptoms in a large UK cohort study of older people.


Longitudinal cohort study


The Medical Research Council Cognitive Function and Aging Study (CFAS) is a population representative study based on six centres across England and Wales.


Random samples of people in their 65th year were obtained from Family Health Service Authority lists. The participation rate was 80% (n=13 004). Interview at baseline included questions about stroke and three transient neurological symptoms, repeated in a subsample after 2 years. Patients were flagged for mortality.


Prevalence and 2-year incidence of transient neurological symptoms.


In 11 903 participants without a history of stroke, 271 (2.3%) reported transient problems with speech, 872 (7.6%) with sight and 596 (5.1%) weakness in a limb with 1456 (12.7%) reporting at least one symptom. Of those reinterviewed (n=6748), 675 (9.8%) reported at least one symptom over 2 years.


Lifetime prevalence and incidence of transient neurological symptoms in people aged 65 years and over is high and is substantially greater than the incidence of TIA in hospital-based and population-based studies. These high rates of transient neurological symptoms in the community in the older population should be considered when planning TIA services.



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