Transient Ischemic Attack

(TIA; Mini-Stroke)

How to Say It: trans-EE-ent isk-EE-mik uh-tak


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.

Blood Supply to the Brain

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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:

  • A piece of a blood clot or plaque that has broken off from another site
  • Blood and blood-clotting problems, such as:
    • Severe anemia—too few red blood cells
    • Polycythemia—too many red blood cells
    • Hyperviscosity—thickening of the blood
  • Endocarditis—an infection of the lining of the heart

Risk Factors

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
  • Clumsiness
  • 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:


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:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as not smoking, eating a healthful diet, exercising, and limiting alcohol
  • Medicines to prevent blood clots or to slow clotting
  • Surgery to ease blockage in blood vessels
  • Managing health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol


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: 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: Accessed October 5, 2020.
Transient ischemic attack (TIA). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed October 5, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 5/25/2021

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