Transient Ischemic Attack

A Transient Ischemic Attack, also known as a TIA or mini stroke, is a stroke that lasts for a relatively short time, with subsequent symptoms lasting no more than 24 hours. A TIA is caused by the temporary interruption of blood supply to the brain, usually as a result of an artery being blocked by plaque build-up or a blood clot, much like during a stroke. The main difference between a TIA and a stroke, however, is that while the symptoms of a TIA last for up to 24 hours, a typical stroke usually causes more significant, permanent damage.

Many patients that experience a TIA may believe that they have had a stroke and will therefore be taken to an emergency room. This is an appropriate course of action. Going to the emergency room not only mitigates potential damage and complications from non-treatment, but also sets anti-stroke efforts into motion. TIAs are the best warning signs for an impending stroke and about 1/3 of TIA patients can subsequently have a stroke.

Causes and Diagnosis of Transient Ischemic Attacks

The blockage of blood flow to the brain that causes a TIA is the result of the same underlying conditions that increases the risk of a full-blown stroke, and similarly a heart attack. Risk factors that increase the chance of a TIA include: a) smoking, b) high cholesterol, c) hypertension (high blood pressure), d) high blood sugar, including diabetes, and e) genetic predisposition or family history.

The diagnostic process for a TIA is like that of a stroke, meaning when a patient arrives at the emergency room, the medical team will likely perform a complete stroke evaluation to both confirm a TIA and rule out a stroke. Typical testing for a TIA or stroke includes:

  • Physical exam
  • Bloodwork
  • Cartoid ultrasound to check for blockage of the artery
  • CT and MRI scanning
  • CTA and MRA scanning

Treatment for TIA

Because of the very nature of a transient ischemic attack, short-term effects are relatively mild when compared to a stroke. There are typically no long-term complications directly associated with a TIA, however some patients may have injuries caused during a TIA – for example, a fall due to dizziness or visual impairment. Subsequent treatment usually focuses on the prevention of a stroke. Recognizing the diagnostic importance of a TIA, Western Nero has created a dedicated TA clinic to begin patients on a comprehensive anti-stroke plan. Learn more about our TIA clinic.