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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Critical Care and Emergency Medicine - Neurological Disorders - Non-Clinical Medicine - Public Health and Epidemiology

A Cross-Sectional Study of Individuals Seeking Information on Transient Ischemic Attack and Stroke Symptoms Online: A Target for Intervention?
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Author: Anthony S. Kim et al.

by Anthony S. Kim, Sharon N. Poisson, J. Donald Easton, S. Claiborne Johnston

Background

Individuals with TIA/stroke symptoms often do not seek urgent medical attention. We assessed the feasibility of identifying individuals searching for information on TIA/stroke symptoms online as a target for future interventions to encourage urgent evaluation and we evaluated the performance of a self-reported risk score to identify subjects with true TIA or stroke.

Methodology/Principal Findings

We placed online advertisements to target English-speaking adults in the United States searching for TIA/stroke-related keywords. After completing an online questionnaire, participants were telephoned by a vascular neurologist to assess the likelihood of TIA/stroke. We used logistic regression and the c-statistic to assess associations and model discrimination respectively. Over 122 days, 251 (1%) of 25,292 website visitors completed the online questionnaire and 175 were reached by telephone (mean age 58.5 years; 63% women) for follow-up. Of these participants, 37 (21%) had symptoms within 24 hours, 60 (34%) had not had a medical evaluation yet, and 68 (39%) had TIA/stroke. Applying a modified ABCD2 score yielded a c-statistic of 0.66, but 2 of 12 with a zero score had a TIA/stroke. Those with new symptoms were more likely to have TIA/stroke (OR 4.90, 95% CI 2.56-9.09).

Conclusions/Significance

Individuals with TIA/stroke that are seeking real-time information on symptoms online can be readily identified, in some cases before they have sought formal medical evaluation. Although a simple self-reported risk score was unable to identify a low-risk population in this selected group, this population may still present an attractive target for future interventions designed to encourage urgent medical evaluation.

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