Transient Ischemic Attack
Transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a brief problem of the brain. It is due to a shortage of blood and oxygen. TIA is sometimes called a mini-stroke.
TIA is a serious problem. It is a warning of a future stroke.
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TIA happens when blood flow to the brain is too low. This can be from a narrowing or a blockage. Narrowing may happen with:
- A build up of plaque, called atherosclerosis
- Vasculitis—inflammation of the blood vessels
A blockage may happen with:
TIAs are more common in older adults. Some things that may raise the risk of TIA are:
TIA symptoms happen quickly. The problems a person has depends on the part of the brain that is affected. Symptoms are like those of a stroke.
- Loss of strength
- Problems speaking
- Problems seeing, such as blindness in one eye
- Numbness or tingling
- A feeling of spinning when you are still
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Tests that may be done include:
- Blood tests
- MRI scan of the head
- MR angiography to assess blood vessels in the head using magnetic imaging
- CT scan of the head
- CT angiogram to assess blood vessels in the brain and neck with contrast dye
- Doppler ultrasound to assess blood flow in the arteries supplying the brain
- Electrocardiogram (EKG) to measure the heart's electrical activity
The effects of TIA do not last. Most people recover in a few minutes. However, a TIA means there is an increased risk of a stroke. The risk is highest in the first week after a TIA. The goal of treatment is to lower the risk of a future stroke. Medical care is needed to make the best plan for prevention. Steps may include:
TIA cannot always be prevented. To lower the risk:
- Manage high blood pressure.
- Avoid using tobacco.
- Limit alcohol.
- Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.
American Heart Association
National Stroke Association
Canadian Society for Vascular Surgery
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Duca A, Jagoda A. Transient Ischemic Attacks: Advances in Diagnosis and Management in the Emergency Department. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2016 Nov;34(4):811-835.
Risk factors for stroke or transient ischemic attack. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/risk-factors-for-stroke-or-transient-ischemic-attack. Accessed October 5, 2020.
Sangha RS, Caprio FZ, et al. Quality of life in patients with TIA and minor ischemic strokes. Neurology. 2015;85(22):1957-1963.
Transient ischemic attack information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Transient-Ischemic-Attack-Information-Page. Accessed October 5, 2020.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/transient-ischemic-attack-tia. Accessed October 5, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD Last Updated: 5/25/2021