Predictive values of referrals for transient ischaemic attack from first-contact health care: a systematic review.

08 Feb 2018

BACKGROUND: Over 150 000 cases of suspected transient ischaemic attack (TIA) are referred to outpatient clinics in England each year. The majority of referrals are made by GPs. AIM: This study aimed to identify how many patients referred to a TIA clinic actually have TIA (that is, calculate the positive predictive value [PPV] of first-contact healthcare referral) and to record the alternative diagnoses in patients without TIA, in order to determine the optimal service model for patients with suspected TIA. DESIGN AND SETTING: A systematic review of TIA clinic referrals from first-contact health professionals (GPs and emergency department [ED] doctors) was undertaken. METHOD: Four databases were searched using terms for TIA and diagnostic accuracy. Data on the number of patients referred to a TIA clinic who actually had a TIA (PPVs) were extracted. Frequencies of differential diagnoses were recorded, where reported. Study quality was assessed using the QUADAS-2 tool. RESULTS: Nineteen studies were included and reported sufficient information on referrals from GPs and ED doctors to derive PPVs (n = 15 935 referrals). PPVs for TIA ranged from 12.9% to 72.5%. A formal meta-analysis was not conducted due to heterogeneity across studies. Of those not diagnosed with TIA, approximately half of the final diagnoses were of neurological or cardiovascular conditions. CONCLUSION: This study highlights the variation in prevalence of true vascular events in patients referred to TIA clinics. For patients without a cerebrovascular diagnosis, the high prevalence of conditions that also require specialist investigations and management are an additional burden on a care pathway that is primarily designed to prevent recurrent stroke. Service commissioners need to assess whether the existing outpatient provision is optimal for people with pathologies other than cerebrovascular disease.