What is a transient ischemic attack (TIA)?

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a blood vessel blockage that comes and goes quickly. TIAs are no less dangerous than ischemic strokes, because they have the same causes—which, if not treated, usually lead to ischemic stroke, which results from an interruption in blood flow through an artery supplying a specific area of the brain. The stroke guidelines from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) reflect the urgent need to determine the cause of a TIA.

The consensus is that a TIA should be regarded, and treated, every bit as seriously as a full-blown stroke. Full strokes can start out just like TIAs. TIAs usually last several minutes to hours and are caused by partial or temporary obstruction of an artery by the same process that causes an ischemic stroke. For this reason, although the symptoms of a TIA may disappear, take it as a warning of an impending, serious ischemic stroke.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a little or “mini” stroke. In some cases, this attack precedes a major stroke. In fact, some experts claim that of the people who have had one or more TIAs, more than one-third will later have a stroke.

You might consider a TIA as a stroke warning sign or predictor of a stroke. While you can have similar symptoms to a stroke, these symptoms only last a few minutes, as the blood supply to the brain are briefly interrupted. The symptoms then subside and you feel normal again. But you are not normal! TIAs need medical attention and treatment. Do not ignore a mini-stroke. Call your doctor.

Your doctor will use a carotid Doppler to evaluate your arteries. If you have a carotid blockage larger than 60 percent, your doctor may recommend surgery, which is called carotid endarterectomy. During this surgery, plaque is removed from the carotid artery and a carotid stent may be placed inside.

Dr. Kathleen Handal, MD
Emergency Medicine Specialist

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called "warning stroke" or "mini-stroke," causes signs and symptoms just like a stroke, but they go away. This is a sign that a full-blown stroke may be on the way. TIAs should not be ignored even if symptoms go away quickly.

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Dr. Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is an episode in which a person has stroke-like symptoms that last only a short time and do not do permanent damage. TIAs are often, however, a signal that a full stroke is imminent, with 4 to 10 percent of people having a stroke within 48 hours of a TIA.

A transient ischemic attack is thought by many to be a "pre-stroke"; it usually acts like a stroke with facial droop or weakness that is only on one side of the body, or problems with speech, etc., but lasts less than 24 hours and completely resolves. Also, the imaging that we usually use to diagnose a stroke (i.e., CT/MRI) will not have any obvious abnormalities with a TIA, whereas you will be able to see affected areas in a CT or MRI in people who have had a stroke.

A transient ischemic attack—TIA for short—happens when a blood clot temporarily blocks a blood vessel leading to your brain. Sometimes called a "mini-stroke," a TIA can cause some of the same symptoms as a stroke, though they're temporary and cause no permanent damage. A TIA often happens before a stroke and should never be ignored.

A transient ischemic attack, or TIA, sometimes called a mini-stroke, occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery in the brain for a short time. The symptoms of a mini-stroke are the same as those of a stroke, but they usually last only a few minutes. Mini-strokes may not cause permanent damage, but they are a serious warning sign that you are at risk of having a major stroke. Receiving prompt medical care for a mini-stroke may prevent a stroke by helping you make changes to reduce your risk.

An early warning sign of an impending ischemic stroke is one or more transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or "mini-strokes." TIAs are critical warning signs that a stroke may be on the way in the coming days or months. During a TIA, blood flow to a part of the brain is temporarily restricted, leading to transient neurological deficits. The symptoms may be the same as those of a stroke but milder, and may last only a few minutes.

Dr. William D. Knopf, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a transient stroke that lasts for only a few minutes. It occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is briefly interrupted. TIA symptoms, which usually occur suddenly, are similar to those of stroke, but do not last as long. Most symptoms of a TIA disappear within an hour, although they may persist for up to 24 hours. Symptoms can include numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; confusion or difficulty in talking or understanding speech; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; and difficulty with walking, dizziness or loss of balance and coordination.

This answer is based upon source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Dr. Jeffrey L. Saver, MD

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when there is a temporary loss of blood flow to a brain region, usually lasting under one hour, causing temporary loss of function but not permanent damage. In a TIA, the patient was lucky—blood flow was spontaneously restored before lasting injury occurred. It is important for patients who have had TIAs to have medical evaluation to find and treat the underlying causes before a permanent stroke occurs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.