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Stroke - Diagnosis and initial management of acute stroke and transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

 

NICE clinical guideline 68

Stroke: diagnosis and initial management of acute stroke and transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

 

Ordering information

You can download the following documents from www.nice.org.uk/CG068

The NICE guideline (this document) – all the recommendations.

A quick reference guide – a summary of the recommendations for healthcare professionals.

‘Understanding NICE guidance’ – information for patients and carers.

The full guideline – all the recommendations, details of how they were developed, and reviews of the evidence they were based on.

 

NICE clinical guidelines are recommendations about the treatment and care of people with specific diseases and conditions in the NHS in England and Wales

 

This guidance represents the view of the Institute, which was arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. Healthcare professionals are expected to take it fully into account when exercising their clinical judgement. However, the guidance does not override the individual responsibility of healthcare professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual patient, in consultation with the patient and/or guardian or carer and informed by the summary of product characteristics of any drugs they are considering.

 

Implementation of this guidance is the responsibility of local commissioners and/or providers. Commissioners and providers are reminded that it is their responsibility to implement the guidance, in their local context, in light of their duties to avoid unlawful discrimination and to have regard to promoting equality of opportunity. Nothing in this guidance should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with compliance with those duties.

 

Introduction

Stroke is a preventable and treatable disease. Over the past two decades a growing body of evidence has overturned the traditional perception that stroke is simply a consequence of aging that inevitably results in death or severe disability. Evidence is accumulating for more effective primary and secondary prevention strategies, better recognition of people at highest risk, and interventions that are effective soon after the onset of symptoms.

Understanding of the care processes that contribute to a better outcome has improved, and there is now good evidence to support interventions and care processes in stroke rehabilitation.

 

In the UK, the National Sentinel Stroke Audits have documented changes in secondary care provision over the last 10 years, with increasing numbers of patients being treated in stroke units, more evidence-based practice, and reductions in mortality and length of hospital stay. In order for evidence from research studies to improve outcomes for patients, it needs to be put into practice. National guidelines provide clinicians, managers and service users with summaries of evidence and recommendations for clinical practice.

Implementation of guidelines in practice, supported by regular audit, improves the processes of care and clinical outcome.

 

This guideline covers interventions in the acute stage of a stroke ‘acute stroke’ or transient ischaemic attack (TIA). Most of the evidence considered relates to interventions in the first 48 hours after onset of symptoms, although some interventions up to 2 weeks are covered. The Intercollegiate Stroke Working Party (ICSWP) National Clinical Guidelines for Stroke (published July 2008), which is an update of the 2004 edition, includes all of the recommendations from this NICE guideline.

 

This NICE guideline should also be read alongside the Department of Health National Stroke Strategy. There are some differences between the recommendations made in the NICE guideline and those in the National Stroke Strategy. However, the NICE Guideline Development Group (GDG)

feel that their recommendations are based on evidence derived from all of the relevant literature as identified by systematic methodology.

 

Stroke has a sudden and sometimes dramatic impact on the patient and their family, who need continuing information and support. Clinicians dealing with acute care need to be mindful of the rehabilitation and secondary care needs of people with stroke to ensure a smooth transition across the different phases of care. In addition, it should be borne in mind that some recommendations in the guideline may not be appropriate for patients who are dying or who have severe comorbidities.

 

Incidence and prevalence

Stroke is a major health problem in the UK. It accounted for over 56,000 deaths in England and Wales in 1999, which represents 11% of all deaths. Most people survive a first stroke, but often have significant morbidity. Each year in England, approximately 110,000 people have a first or recurrent stroke and a further 20,000 people have a TIA. More than 900,000 people in England are living with the effects of stroke, with half of these being dependent on  other people for help with everyday activities.

Health and resource burden

In England, stroke is estimated to cost the economy around £7 billion per year. This comprises direct costs to the NHS of £2.8 billion, costs of informal care of £2.4 billion and costs because of lost productivity and disability of £1.8 billion. Until recently, stroke was not perceived as a high priority within

the NHS. However, a National Stroke Strategy was developed by the Department of Health in 2007. This outlines an ambition for the diagnosis, treatment and management of stroke, including all aspects of care from emergency response to life after stroke.

 

Drugs

The guideline assumes that prescribers will use a drug’s summary of product characteristics to inform their decisions for individual patients.

 

Definitions

Symptoms  of  stroke  include  numbness,  weakness  or  paralysis,  slurred  speech,  blurred  vision,  confusion  and  severe  headache.  Stroke  is  defined  by the World Health Organization   as a clinical syndrome consisting of ‘rapidly developing  clinical  signs  of  focal  (at  times  global)  disturbance  of  cerebral function, lasting  more  than 24  h  or  leading  to  death  with  no  apparent  cause other than that of vascular origin’. A transient ischaemic attack (TIA) is defined as  stroke  symptoms  and  signs  that  resolve  within  24  hours.  However,  there are  limitations  to  these  definitions.  For  example,  they  do  not  include  retinal symptoms  (sudden  onset  of  monocular  visual  loss),  which  should  be considered as part of the definition of stroke and TIA. The symptoms of a TIA usually  resolve  within  minutes  or  a  few  hours  at  most,  and  anyone  with continuing  neurological  signs  when  first  assessed  should  be  assumed  to  have had a stroke. The term ‘brain attack’ is sometimes used to describe any neurovascular event and may be a clearer and less ambiguous term to use. A non-disabling stroke is defined as a stroke with symptoms that last for more than 24 hours but later resolve, leaving no permanent disability.

 

Patient-centred care

This guideline offers best practice advice on the care of adults with acute stroke or TIA.

Treatment and care should take into account peoples’ needs and preferences. People with acute stroke or TIA should have the opportunity where possible to make informed decisions about their care and treatment, in partnership with their healthcare professionals. However, the person’s consent may be difficult to obtain at the time of an acute episode, or where the stroke or TIA results in communication problems. If the person does not have the capacity to make decisions, healthcare professionals should follow the Department of Health guidelines Reference guide to consent for examination or

Treatment (2001) (available from. Healthcare professionals should also follow a code of practice accompanying the Mental Capacity Act. A summary is available from, which also gives details about lasting power of attorney and advance decisions about treatment.

Good communication between healthcare professionals and people with acute stroke or TIA, as well as their families and carers, is essential. It should be supported by evidence-based written information tailored to the person’s needs. Treatment and care, and the information people are given about it, should be culturally appropriate. It should also be accessible to people with dysphasia or additional needs such as physical, sensory or learning disabilities, and to people who do not speak or read English.

 

Where appropriate, families and carers should have the opportunity to be involved in decisions about treatment and care.

Families and carers should also be given the information and support they need.

Key priorities for implementation

 

Rapid recognition of symptoms and diagnosis

In people with sudden onset of neurological symptoms a validated tool, such as FAST (Face Arm Speech Test), should be used outside hospital to screen for a diagnosis of stroke or TIA. (1.1.1.1)

People who have had a suspected TIA who are at high risk of stroke (that is, with an ABCD score of 4 or above) should have:

- aspirin (300 mg daily) started immediately

- specialist assessment and investigation within 24 hours of onset of symptoms

- measures for secondary prevention introduced as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed, including discussion of individual risk factors. (1.1.2.2)

 

People with crescendo TIA (two or more TIAs in a week) should be treated as being at high risk of stroke, even though they may have an ABCD score of 3 or below. (1.1.2.3)

 

Specialist care for people with acute stroke

All people with suspected stroke should be admitted directly to a specialist acute stroke unit following initial assessment, either from the community or from the A&E department. (1.3.1.1)

Brain imaging should be performed immediately for people with acute stroke if any of the following apply:

- indications for thrombolysis or early anticoagulation treatment

- on anticoagulant treatment

- a known bleeding tendency

- a depressed level of consciousness (Glasgow Coma Score below 13)

- unexplained progressive or fluctuating symptoms

- papilloedema, neck stiffness or fever

- severe headache at onset of stroke symptoms. (1.3.2.1)

 

Nutrition and hydration

On admission, people with acute stroke should have their swallowing screened by an appropriately trained healthcare professional before being given any oral food, fluid or medication. (1.6.1.1)

Guidance

 

The following guidance is based on the best available evidence. The full guideline (www.nice.org.uk/CG068fullguideline) gives details of the methods and the evidence used to develop the guidance.

 

Rapid recognition of symptoms and diagnosis

There is evidence that rapid treatment improves outcome after stroke or TIA. The recommendations in this section cover the rapid diagnosis of people who have had sudden onset of symptoms that are indicative of stroke and TIA. How to identify risk of subsequent stroke in people who have had a TIA is also covered.

 

Prompt recognition of symptoms of stroke and TIA

In people with sudden onset of neurological symptoms a validated tool, such as FAST (Face Arm Speech Test), should be used outside hospital to screen for a diagnosis of stroke or TIA.

 

In people with sudden onset of neurological symptoms, hypoglycaemia should be excluded as the cause of these symptoms.

People who are admitted to accident and emergency (A&E) with a suspected stroke or TIA should have the diagnosis established rapidly using a validated tool, such as ROSIER (Recognition of Stroke in the Emergency Room).

 

Assessment of people who have had a suspected TIA, and identifying those at high risk of stroke

People who have had a suspected TIA (that is, they have no neurological symptoms at the time of assessment [within 24 hours]) should be assessed as soon as possible for their risk of subsequent stroke using a validated scoring system, such as ABCD.

 

People who have had a suspected TIA who are at high risk of stroke (that is, with an ABCD score of 4 or above) should have:

- aspirin (300 mg daily) started immediately

- specialist assessment and investigation within 24 hours of onset of symptoms

- measures for secondary prevention introduced as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed, including discussion of individual risk factors.

 

People with crescendo TIA (two or more TIAs in a week) should be treated as being at high risk of stroke, even though they may have an ABCD score of 3 or below.

People who have had a suspected TIA who are at lower risk of stroke (that is, an ABCD score of 3 or below) should have:

- aspirin (300 mg daily) started immediately

- specialist assessment and investigation as soon as possible, but definitely within 1 week of onset of symptoms

- measures for secondary prevention introduced as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed, including discussion of individual risk factors.

 

People who have had a TIA but who present late (more than 1 week after their last symptom has resolved) should be treated as though they are at lower risk of stroke.

 

Imaging in people who have had a suspected TIA or non-disabling stroke

While all people with symptoms of acute stroke need urgent brain scanning, there is less evidence to recommend brain scanning in those people whose symptoms have completely resolved by the time of assessment. This section contains recommendations about which people with suspected TIA need brain imaging and the type of imaging that is most helpful.

 

Some people who have had a stroke or TIA have narrowing of the carotid artery that may require surgical intervention. Carotid imaging is required to define the extent of carotid artery narrowing. Sections 1.2.3 and 1.2.4 cover the optimum timing of carotid imaging, and the selection of appropriate patients for, and timing of, carotid endarterectomy. The use of carotid stenting was also reviewed by the GDG. However, no evidence for early carotid stenting was found on which the GDG felt they could base a recommendation. For more information, see chapter 6 of the full guideline.

 

Suspected TIA – referral for urgent brain imaging

People who have had a suspected TIA (that is, whose symptoms and signs have completely resolved within 24 hours) should be assessed by a specialist (within 1 week of symptom onset) before a decision on brain imaging is made.

 

People who have had a suspected TIA who are at high risk of stroke (for example, an ABCD score of 4 or above, or with crescendo TIA) in whom the vascular territory or pathology is uncertain should undergo urgent brain imaging (preferably diffusion-weighted MRI [magnetic resonance imaging]).

People who have had a suspected TIA who are at lower risk of stroke (for example, an ABCD score of less than 4) in whom the vascular territory or pathology is uncertain should undergo brain imaging (preferably diffusion-weighted MRI).

 

Type of brain imaging for people with suspected TIA

People who have had a suspected TIA who need brain imaging (that is, those in whom vascular territory or pathology is uncertain) should undergo diffusion-weighted MRI except where contraindicated, in which case CT (computed tomography) scanning should be used.

 

Early carotid imaging in people with acute non-disabling stroke or TIA

All people with suspected non-disabling stroke or TIA who after specialist assessment are considered as candidates for carotid endarterectomy should have carotid imaging within 1 week of onset of symptoms. People who present more than 1 week after their last symptom of TIA has resolved should be managed using the lower- risk pathway.

 

Urgent carotid endarterectomy and carotid stenting

People with stable neurological symptoms from acute non-disabling stroke or TIA who have symptomatic carotid stenosis of 50–99% according to the NASCET (North American Symptomatic Carotid Endarterectomy Trial) criteria, or 70–99% according to the ECST (European Carotid Surgery Trialists’ Collaborative Group) criteria, should:

- be assessed and referred for carotid endarterectomy within 1 week of onset of stroke or TIA symptoms

- undergo surgery within a maximum of 2 weeks of onset of stroke or TIA symptoms

- receive best medical treatment (control of blood pressure, antiplatelet agents, cholesterol lowering through diet and drugs, lifestyle advice).

 

People with stable neurological symptoms from acute non-disabling stroke or TIA who have symptomatic carotid stenosis of less than 50% according to the NASCET criteria, or less than 70% according to the ECST criteria, should:

- not undergo surgery

- receive best medical treatment (control of blood pressure, antiplatelet agents, cholesterol lowering through diet and drugs, lifestyle advice).

 

Carotid imaging reports should clearly state which criteria (ECST or NASCET) were used when measuring the extent of carotid stenosis.

 

Specialist care for people with acute stroke

This section provides recommendations about the optimum care for people with acute stroke: where they should be cared for and how soon they should undergo brain imaging.

 

Specialist stroke units

All people with suspected stroke should be admitted directly to a specialist acute stroke unit following initial assessment, either from the community or from the A&E department.

 

Brain imaging for the early assessment of people with acute stroke

Brain imaging should be performed immediately for people with acute stroke if any of the following apply:

- indications for thrombolysis or early anticoagulation treatment

- on anticoagulant treatment

- a known bleeding tendency

- a depressed level of consciousness (Glasgow Coma Score below 13)

- unexplained progressive or fluctuating symptoms

- papilloedema, neck stiffness or fever

- severe headache at onset of stroke symptoms.

 

For all people with acute stroke without indications for immediate brain imaging, scanning should be performed as soon as possible.

Pharmacological treatments for people with acute stroke

Urgent treatment has been shown to improve outcome in stroke. This section contains recommendations about urgent pharmacological treatment in people with acute stroke.

 

Thrombolysis with alteplase

Alteplase is recommended for the treatment of acute ischaemic stroke when used by physicians trained and experienced in the management of acute stroke. It should only be administered in centres with facilities that enable it to be used in full accordance with its marketing authorisation.

 

Alteplase should be administered only within a well organised stroke service with:

- staff trained in delivering thrombolysis and in monitoring for any complications associated with thrombolysis

- level 1 and level 2 nursing care staff trained in acute stroke and thrombolysis

- immediate access to imaging and re-imaging, and staff trained to interpret the images.

 

Staff in A&E departments, if appropriately trained and supported, can administer alteplase for the treatment of acute ischaemic stroke provided that patients can be managed within an acute stroke service with appropriate neuroradiological and stroke physician support.

 

Protocols should be in place for the delivery and management of thrombolysis, including post-thrombolysis complications.

 

Aspirin and anticoagulant treatment

People with acute ischaemic stroke

All people presenting with acute stroke who have had a diagnosis of primary intracerebral haemorrhage excluded by brain imaging should, as soon as possible but certainly within 24 hours, be given:

- aspirin 300 mg orally if they are not dysphagic or

- aspirin 300 mg rectally or by enteral tube if they are dysphagic.

Thereafter, aspirin 300 mg should be continued until 2 weeks after the onset of stroke symptoms, at which time definitive long-term antithrombotic treatment should be initiated. People being discharged before 2 weeks can be started on long-term treatment earlier.

 

Any person with acute ischaemic stroke for whom previous dyspepsia associated with aspirin is reported should be given a proton pump inhibitor in addition to aspirin.

Any person with acute ischaemic stroke who is allergic to or genuinely intolerant of aspirin should be given an alternative antiplatelet agent.

Anticoagulation treatment should not be used routinely for the treatment of acute stroke.

 

People with acute venous stroke

People diagnosed with cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (including those with secondary cerebral haemorrhage) should be given full- dose anticoagulation treatment (initially full-dose heparin and then warfarin [INR 2–3]) unless there are comorbidities that preclude its use.

 

People with stroke associated with arterial dissection

People with stroke secondary to acute arterial dissection should be treated with either anticoagulants or antiplatelet agents, preferably as part of a randomised controlled trial to compare the effects of the two treatments.

 

People with acute ischaemic stroke associated with antiphospholipid syndrome

People with antiphospholipid syndrome who have an acute ischaemic stroke should be managed in same way as people with acute ischaemic stroke without antiphospholipid syndrome.

Reversal of anticoagulation treatment in people with haemorrhagic stroke

Clotting levels in people with a primary intracerebral haemorrhage who were receiving anticoagulation treatment before their stroke (and have elevated INR) should be returned to normal as soon as possible, by reversing the effects of the anticoagulation treatment using a combination of prothrombin complex concentrate and intravenous vitamin K.

 

Anticoagulation treatment for other comorbidities

People with disabling ischaemic stroke who are in atrial fibrillation should be treated with aspirin 300 mg for the first 2 weeks before considering anticoagulation treatment.

People with prosthetic valves who have disabling cerebral infarction and who are at significant risk of haemorrhagic transformation, anticoagulation treatment should be stopped for 1 week and aspirin 300 mg substituted.

People with ischaemic stroke and symptomatic proximal deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism should receive anticoagulation treatment in preference to treatment with aspirin unless there are other contraindications to anticoagulation.

People with haemorrhagic stroke and symptomatic deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism should have treatment to prevent the development of further pulmonary emboli using either anticoagulation or a caval filter.

 

Statin treatment

Immediate initiation of statin treatment is not recommended in people with acute stroke.

People with acute stroke who are already receiving statins should continue their statin treatment.

 

Maintenance or restoration of homeostasis

A key element of care for people with acute stroke is the maintenance of cerebral blood flow and oxygenation to prevent further brain damage after stroke. This section contains recommendations on oxygen supplementation, maintenance of normoglycaemia, and acute blood pressure manipulation.

 

Supplemental oxygen therapy

People who have had a stroke should receive supplemental oxygen only if their oxygen saturation drops below 95%. The routine use of supplemental oxygen is not recommended in people with acute stroke who are not hypoxic.

 

Blood sugar control

People with acute stroke should be treated to maintain a blood glucose concentration between 4 and 11 mmol/litre.

Optimal insulin therapy, which can be achieved by the use of intravenous insulin and glucose, should be provided to all adults with diabetes who have threatened or actual myocardial infarction or stroke. Critical care and emergency departments should have a protocol for such management.

 

Blood pressure control

Anti-hypertensive treatment in people with acute stroke is recommended only if there is a hypertensive emergency with one or more of the following serious concomitant medical issues:

- hypertensive encephalopathy

- hypertensive nephropathy

- hypertensive cardiac failure/myocardial infarction

- aortic dissection

- pre-eclampsia/eclampsia

- intracerebral haemorrhage with systolic blood pressure over 200 mmHg.

 

Blood pressure reduction to 185/110 mmHg or lower should be considered in people who are candidates for thrombolysis.

 

Nutrition and hydration

Many people with acute stroke are unable to swallow safely, and may require supplemental hydration and nutrition. This section provides recommendations on assessment of swallowing, hydration and nutrition.

 

Assessment of swallowing function

On admission, people with acute stroke should have their swallowing screened by an appropriately trained healthcare professional before being given any oral food, fluid or medication.

 

If the admission screen indicates problems with swallowing, the person should have a specialist assessment of swallowing, preferably within 24 hours of admission and not more than 72 hours afterwards.

People with suspected aspiration on specialist assessment, or who require tube feeding or dietary modification for 3 days, should be:

- re-assessed and considered for instrumental examination

- referred for dietary advice.

 

People with acute stroke who are unable to take adequate nutrition and fluids orally should:

- receive tube feeding with a nasogastric tube within 24 hours of admission

- be considered for a nasal bridle tube or gastrostomy if they are unable to tolerate a nasogastric tube

- be referred to an appropriately trained healthcare professional for detailed nutritional assessment, individualised advice and monitoring.

 

Oral nutritional supplementation

All hospital inpatients on admission should be screened for malnutrition and the risk of malnutrition. Screening should be repeated weekly for inpatients.

Screening should assess body mass index (BMI) and percentage unintentional weight loss and should also consider the time over which nutrient intake has been unintentionally reduced and/or the likelihood of future impaired nutrient intake. The Malnutrition

Universal Screening Tool (MUST), for example, may be used to do this.

 

When screening for malnutrition and the risk of malnutrition, healthcare professionals should be aware that dysphagia, poor oral health and reduced ability to self-feed will affect nutrition in people with stroke.

Screening for malnutrition and the risk of malnutrition should be carried out by healthcare professionals with appropriate skills and training.

Routine nutritional supplementation is not recommended for people with acute stroke who are adequately nourished on admission.

Nutrition support should be initiated for people with stroke who are at risk of malnutrition. This may include oral nutritional supplements, specialist dietary advice and/or tube feeding.

All people with acute stroke should have their hydration assessed on admission, reviewed regularly and managed so that normal hydration is maintained.

 

Early mobilisation and optimum positioning of people with acute stroke

Early mobilisation is considered a key element of acute stroke care. Sitting up will help to maintain oxygen saturation and reduce the likelihood of hypostatic pneumonia.

People with acute stroke should be mobilised as soon as possible (when their clinical condition permits) as part of an active management programme in a specialist stroke unit.

People with acute stroke should be helped to sit up as soon as possible (when their clinical condition permits).

 

1.Avoidance of aspiration pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia is a complication of stroke that is associated with increased mortality and poor outcomes.

In people with dysphagia, food and fluids should be given in a form that can be swallowed without aspiration, following specialist assessment of swallowing.

 

Surgery for people with acute stroke

There is evidence that neurosurgical treatment may be indicated for a very small number of carefully selected people with stroke. This section contains recommendations for surgical intervention in people with intracerebral haemorrhage or severe middle cerebral artery infarction.

 

Surgical referral for acute intracerebral haemorrhage

Stroke services should agree protocols for the monitoring, referral and transfer of people to regional neurosurgical centres for the management of symptomatic hydrocephalus.

People with intracranial haemorrhage should be monitored by specialists in neurosurgical or stroke care for deterioration in function and referred immediately for brain imaging when necessary.

Previously fit people should be considered for surgical intervention following primary intracranial haemorrhage if they have hydrocephalus.

 

People with any of the following rarely require surgical intervention and should receive medical treatment initially:

- small deep haemorrhages

- lobar haemorrhage without either hydrocephalus or rapid neurological deterioration

- a large haemorrhage and significant comorbidities before the stroke

- a score on the Glasgow Coma Scale of below 8 unless this is because of hydrocephalus

- posterior fossa haemorrhage.

 

Surgical referral for decompressive hemicraniectomy

People with middle cerebral artery infarction who meet all of the criteria below should be considered for decompressive

hemicraniectomy. They should be referred within 24 hours of onset of symptoms and treated within a maximum of 48 hours.

 

Aged 60 years or under.

Clinical deficits suggestive of infarction in the territory of the middle cerebral artery, with a score on the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) of above 15.

Decrease in the level of consciousness to give a score of 1 or more on item 1a of the NIHSS.

Signs on CT of an infarct of at least 50% of the middle cerebral artery territory, with or without additional infarction in the territory of the anterior or posterior cerebral artery on the same side, or infarct volume greater than 145 cm as shown on diffusion- weighted MRI.

 

People who are referred for decompressive hemicraniectomy should be monitored by appropriately trained professionals skilled in neurological assessment.

 

Notes on the scope of the guidance

NICE guidelines are developed in accordance with a scope that defines what the guideline will and will not cover. The scope of this guideline is available from

 

Groups that are covered

People with transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs) or completed strokes; that is, an acute neurological event presumed to be vascular in origin and causing cerebral ischaemia, cerebral infarction or cerebral haemorrhage.

This includes:

- first and recurrent events

- thrombotic and embolic events

- primary intracerebral haemorrhage of any cause, including venous thrombosis.

 

Areas and groups that are not covered

Specific issues relating to the general management of underlying conditions are not considered, but immediate management to reduce the extent of brain damage is included.

People with subarachnoid haemorrhage.

Children (aged 16 years and under).

 

How this guideline was developed

 

NICE commissioned the National Collaborating Centre for Chronic Conditions to develop this guideline. The Centre established a Guideline Development Group (see appendix A), which reviewed the evidence and developed the recommendations. An independent Guideline Review Panel oversaw the development of the guideline (see appendix B).

 

Implementation

The Healthcare Commission assesses the performance of NHS organisations in meeting core and developmental standards set by the Department of Health in Standards for better health

Implementation of clinical guidelines forms part of the developmental standard D2. Core standard C5 says that national agreed guidance should be taken  into account when NHS organisations are planning and delivering care.

 

NICE has developed tools to help organisations implement this guidance (listed below).

 

Slides highlighting key messages for local discussion.

Costing tools:

- costing report to estimate the national savings and costs associated with implementation

- costing template to estimate the local costs and savings involved.

 

Audit support for monitoring local practice.

Research recommendations

 

The Guideline Development Group has made the following recommendations for research, based on its review of evidence, to improve NICE guidance and patient care in the future.

 

Avoidance of aspiration pneumonia

Does the withdrawal of oral liquids or the use of modified (thickened) oral fluids prevent the development of aspiration pneumonia after an acute stroke?

 

Why this is important

People with dysphagia after an acute stroke are at higher risk of aspiration pneumonia. The GDG considered how best to reduce the likelihood of people with acute stroke developing aspiration pneumonia, but there was insufficient evidence on which to base a recommendation. Current clinical practice dictates that those people with clinical evidence of aspiration are given ‘nil by mouth’ or are given modified (thickened) oral fluids. However, there is little

evidence to suggest that withdrawal or modification of fluids reduces the incidence of pneumonia. Oral hygiene is impaired by the withdrawal of oral fluids, and aspirated saliva (up to 2 litres/day) may be infected as a result. Medications are not given orally, and patients may be distressed by the withholding of oral fluids. The research question is whether allowing people with evidence of aspiration free access to water predisposes them to the development of aspiration pneumonia compared with withdrawal of oral liquids or the use of modified (thickened) oral fluids.

 

Aspirin and anticoagulant treatment for acute ischaemic stroke

Does modified-release dipyridamole or clopidogrel with aspirin improve outcome compared with aspirin alone when administered early after acute ischaemic stroke?

 

Why this is important

Aspirin administered within 48 hours of acute ischaemic stroke improves outcome compared with no treatment or early anticoagulation. In the secondary prevention of stroke, the combination of modified-release dipyridamole with aspirin improves outcome compared with aspirin alone. Clopidogrel, administered with aspirin, improves outcome after myocardial infarction. It is not known whether antiplatelet agents other than aspirin (alone or in combination) may be more effective than aspirin alone in the acute phase of ischaemic stroke. The research question to be addressed is whether modified-release dipyridamole or clopidogrel with aspirin improves outcome compared with aspirin alone when administered early after acute ischaemic stroke.

 

Aspirin treatment in acute ischaemic stroke

Should a person who has a stroke or a TIA and is already taking aspirin be prescribed the same or an increased dose of aspirin after the stroke?

 

Why this is important

Many people take aspirin routinely for the secondary or primary prevention of vascular disease. When a person who is taking 75 mg aspirin daily has a

stroke or TIA, there is no evidence to guide clinicians on whether to maintain or increase the dose. The research question to be addressed is whether a person already on aspirin who has a stroke or TIA should be offered the same or an increased dose of aspirin.

 

Early mobilisation and optimum positioning of people with acute stroke

How safe and effective is very early mobilisation delivered by appropriately trained healthcare professionals after stroke?

 

Why this is important

Most people with stroke are nursed in bed for at least the first day after their admission to the stroke unit. The severity of limb weakness or incoordination and reduced awareness or an impaired level of consciousness may make mobilisation potentially hazardous. There are concerns about the effect of very early mobilisation on blood pressure and cerebral perfusion pressure.

However, early mobilisation may have beneficial effects on oxygenation and lead to a reduction in complications such as venous thromboembolism and hypostatic pneumonia. There could be benefits for motor and sensory recovery, and patient motivation. The research question to be addressed is whether very early mobilisation with the aid of appropriately trained professionals is safe and improves outcome compared with standard care.

 

Blood pressure control

How safe and effective is the early manipulation of blood pressure after stroke?

 

Why this is important

Many people with stroke have pre-existing hypertension, for which they may be receiving treatment. After stroke, even apparently small changes in blood pressure may be associated with alterations in cerebral perfusion pressure, which may affect the ability of damaged neurones to survive. A sudden drop in blood pressure to an apparently ‘normal’ level may have very marked effects on the damaged brain in a person who had elevated blood pressure before  the stroke. The effect of raised blood pressure may differ between people with

ischaemic stroke and those with haemorrhagic stroke. It is not known whether a reduction in blood pressure after stroke is beneficial or harmful, and whether elevation of blood pressure under certain circumstances might be associated with better outcome. The research question to be addressed is whether early manipulation of blood pressure after stroke is safe and improves outcome compared with standard care.

 

Safety and efficacy of carotid stenting

What is the safety and efficacy of carotid stenting compared with carotid endarterectomy when these procedures are carried out within 2 weeks of TIA or recovered stroke?

 

Why this is important

Carotid stenting is less invasive than carotid endarterectomy and might be safer, particularly for patients very soon after a TIA or stroke, for whom the risks of general anaesthetic might be high. However, neither the risk of stroke nor long-term outcomes after early carotid stenting are known. A randomised controlled trial comparing these interventions early after stroke would determine which of them is associated with the best outcome, as well as comparing their relative safety and cost effectiveness.

 

The full guideline, 'Stroke: diagnosis and initial management of acute stroke and transient ischaemic attack (TIA)', contains details of the methods and evidence used to develop the guideline.

 

Related NICE guidance

Published

Lipid modification: cardiovascular risk assessment and the modification of blood lipids for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. NICE clinical guideline 67 (2008). Available from:

 

Alteplase for the treatment of acute ischaemic stroke. NICE technology appraisal 122 (2007). Available from:

Hypertension: management of hypertension in adults in primary care. NICE clinical guideline 34 (2006). Available from:

 

Nutrition support in adults: oral nutrition support, enteral tube feeding and parenteral nutrition. NICE clinical guideline 32 (2006). Available from:

Clopidogrel and modified-release dipyridamole in the prevention of occlusive vascular events. NICE technology appraisal 90 (2005). Available from:

Type 1 diabetes: diagnosis and management of type 1 diabetes in children, young people and adults. NICE clinical guideline 15 (2004). Available from:

 

Under development

The prevention of venous thromboembolism in all hospital patients. NICE clinical guideline (publication expected September 2009).

 

Updating the guideline

NICE clinical guidelines are updated as needed so that recommendations take into account important new information. We check for new evidence 2 and 4 years after publication, to decide whether all or part of the guideline should be updated. If important new evidence is published at other times, we may decide to do a more rapid update of some recommendations.

 

Appendix A: The Guideline Development Group

 

Mr Alan Bowmaster

Patient and carer representative, Hull

 

Mrs Katherine Cullen

Health Economist, National Collaborating Centre for Chronic Conditions (NCC-CC), and Research Fellow, Queen Mary University of London

 

Mrs Diana Day

Stroke Specialist Research Nurse, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

 

Professor Gary Ford

Professor of Pharmacology of Old Age, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

 

Mr Steve Hatton

Emergency Care Practitioner, Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust

 

Mr Joseph Korner

Patient and carer representative, London

 

Dr Richard McManus

Clinical Senior Lecturer in Primary Care and General Practitioner, University of Birmingham

 

Dr Andrew Molyneux

Consultant Neuroradiologist, Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust

 

Professor John Potter

Professor in Geriatrics and Stroke Medicine, University of East Anglia, Norwich

 

Mrs Alison Richards

Information Scientist, NCC-CC

 

Dr Anthony Rudd

Guideline Development Group Chairman, and Consultant Stroke Physician, Guys and St Thomas’ Hospital NHS Trust

 

Dr Sharon Swain

Health Services Research Fellow in Guideline Development, NCC-CC

 

Miss Claire Turner

Guideline Development Senior Project Manager, NCC-CC

 

Dr Pippa Tyrrell

Guideline Development Group Clinical Advisor, and Senior Lecturer/Honorary Consultant Stroke Medicine, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust

 

Mr David Wonderling

Senior Health Economist, NCC-CC

 

The following experts were invited to attend specific meetings and to advise the Guideline Development Group:

Ms Rhoda Allison

Consultant Therapist in Stroke, Teignbridge PCT

 

Dr Neil Baldwin

Consultant in Stroke Medicine, North Bristol Healthcare Trust (attended one meeting as a deputy for Dr John Potter)

 

Mrs Julie Barker

Senior Dietitian, United Bristol Healthcare Trust

 

Mr Peter Kirkpatrick

Consultant Neurosurgeon, Addenbrooke’s NHS Trust

 

Mr Peter Lamont

Consultant Vascular Surgeon, United Bristol Healthcare Trust

 

Ms Mariane Morse

Principal Speech and Language Therapist, Newcastle PCT

 

Professor Peter Rothwell

Consultant Neurologist, Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust

 

Mr Sam Willis

Paramedic Lecturer Practitioner, London Ambulance Service and Greenwich University (attended one meeting as a deputy for Mr Steve Hatton)

 

Appendix B: The Guideline Review Panel

The Guideline Review Panel is an independent panel that oversees the development of the guideline and takes responsibility for monitoring adherence to NICE guideline development processes. In particular, the panel ensures that stakeholder comments have been adequately considered and responded to. The panel includes members from the following perspectives: primary care, secondary care, lay, public health and industry.

 

Dr Robert Walker (Chair)

General Practitioner, Cumbria

 

Dr Mark Hill

Head of Medical Affairs, Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK

 

Dr John Harley

Clinical Governance and Prescribing Lead, North Tees PCT

 

Ailsa Donnelly

Lay member

 

Appendix C: The algorithms

These algorithms are provided as separate files: a TIA pathway (algorithm 1) and a stroke pathway (algorithm 2).

 

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