Brain imaging

Transient Ischemic Attack

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If an artery within the brain or one that goes to the brain is blocked for a short time, the blood flow to that area of the brain slows down or stops.

This can cause a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes called a mini-stroke.

Major Symptoms of A TIA Include:

  • Numbness, weakness or loss of vision
  • Trouble speaking
  • Loss of balance or coordination

Other Symptoms

The symptoms of a TIA and stroke are basically the same. You cannot tell whether you are having a stroke or a TIA. Only a healthcare professional can tell the difference. If you are having a TIA, your healthcare professional can identify and treat the cause(s). This may reduce your risk for future stroke. If you are having a stroke, emergency treatment could save your life and improve your chances for a good recovery.

If you’ve had a TIA, you should see a doctor immediately.

It is important to find out the cause of a TIA so that you and your healthcare professional can develop a stroke prevention plan. To determine the cause of a TIA, your healthcare professional may run tests, such as blood tests, X-rays, ultrasound scanning, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a computed tomography (CT) scan or tests to find out whether there are heart-related problems, such as an irregular heartbeat.

When a TIA happens, the artery either becomes unblocked after a short time or a new path opens up and blood flow goes back to normal. Because of that, the symptoms last for a short time and then disappear. A TIA is a serious warning sign that you might have a stroke. Up to 40% of all people who experience a TIA will go on to have an actual stroke. In fact, risk for stroke is especially high in the first few days after a TIA.

  • Within two days after a TIA, five percent of people will have a stroke
  • Within three months after a TIA, 10 to 15 percent of people will have a stroke

How can a TIA be managed?

The goal of TIA management is to prevent a future stroke. The medicine and therapy used depends on the exact cause of the TIA. In addition to lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, your healthcare professional may recommend drugs to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease. If a TIA is caused by blockage in the main artery (carotid artery) in the neck that supplies blood to the brain, surgery or stenting may be required to open the artery and prevent a stroke. These changes may reduce your risk of further TIA or stroke.