Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Symptoms at stroke onset as described by patients: a qualitative study.

BMC Neurology 2024 May 4
BACKGROUND: Stroke is a common and severe disease that requires prompt care. Symptom expressions as one-sided weakness and speech difficulties are common and included in public stroke campaigns. For some patients stroke can present with subtle and less common symptoms, difficult to interpret. The symptom severity assessed by the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale has decreased, and symptoms at onset may have changed. Therefore, we aimed to investigate how patients describe their symptoms at the onset of a first-time stroke.

METHODS: The study used a qualitative descriptive design and conventional content analysis. Data were collected through recorded interviews with 27 patients aged 18 years and older hospitalised with a first-time stroke between October 2018 and April 2020. Data were analysed on a manifest level.

RESULTS: Symptoms at stroke onset were presented in two themes: Altered Reality and Discomfort and Changed Body Functions and described in five categories. Various types of symptoms were found. All symptoms were perceived as sudden, persistent, and never experienced before and this appear as a "red thread" in the result. Regardless of symptom expressions, no specific symptom was described as more severe than another.

CONCLUSIONS: Stroke symptoms were described with a variety of expressions. Many described complex symptoms not typical of stroke, which can make it difficult to recognise the symptoms as a stroke and delay medical care. Public stroke campaigns should emphasize the importance of seeking medical care at the slightest suspicion of stroke and could be designed to help achieve this.

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