Knowledge of stroke warning signs and risk factors : a survey of Irish adults

Deirdre T. Holly, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

A dissertation submitted in part fulfilment of the degree of MSc in Health Services Research, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, 2010.



Stroke is one of the leading causes of death and disability in Ireland. Access to high quality emergency and acute stroke care has beendemonstrated to reduce mortality and improve patient outcomes. Despite the introduction of clot-busting therapies such as thromboiysis, its use remains low in Ireland. Delay in the recognition of stroke warning signs and in seeking medical attention contribute to treatment delay. Previous studies indicate that knowledge of stroke risk factors and warning signs in the general public is poor, resulting in delay in responding and seeking medical care.


To study knowledge of risk factors and warning signs for stroke in adults in Ireland and to identify factors contributing to delay in seeking medical attention following a suspected stroke.


A representative sample of 1000 adults selected using random-digit dialling took part. Information relating to the public's knowledge of stroke was gathered by interview administered telephone questionnaire.


Findings show that knowledge of the risk factors and warning signs for stroke in Ireland is poor. While 70% of participants could correctly list two or more of the risk factors for stroke, only 4O0/0 could list two or more warning signs. Less than 50% of participants stated that they would call an ambulance if they were having a stroke. Overall, there were significant gaps in knowledge with poorest levels evident in those aged over 65.


Knowledge deficits highlighted by this study suggest that there is no coherent view of stroke held by the general public, which may contribute toinappropriate response to stroke and subsequent prolonged treatment delays. Targeted public health messages are urgently required in order to improvepopulation knowledge of stroke, especially among the over 65s. Further research in this area is needed.