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 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
  • Carotid ultrasound to check for blockage of the artery
  • CT and MRI scanning
  • CTA and MRA scanning

Diagnosing a Stroke and TIA

A doctor may order tests to confirm a stroke or TIA. These tests may include:

  • Blood work
  • Carotid ultrasound
  • Cerebral angiography
  • CT
  • Electrocardiogram

How Does a TIA Differ from a Stroke?

A TIA, or transient ischemic attack, is like a brief stroke. For a few minutes, blood doesn’t reach part of the brain. The risk factors and symptoms of TIA resemble those of a stroke, and some people who have TIAs go on to have a full-blown stroke. Since it can’t be determined whether someone is having a TIA or a stroke if they show symptoms, it’s important to always call 911 at the moment symptoms appear.

Treatments for TIA

Treatment is typically not focused on the effects of the TIA itself, as long-term effects are rare. Rather, treatment is primarily directed toward the prevention a future stroke. Therefore, each treatment plan requires a comprehensive and holistic approach to improving the patient’s health, and modifying their behaviors.

Treatments for Transient Ischemic Attack

Comprehensive TIA Clinic Available In Tucson

Western Neuro and Carondelet Medical Center have joined forces to create a dedicated Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) clinic with the express purpose of providing urgent care to patients that have recently experienced a TIA. Recognizing that TIAs represent an impending stroke in approximately 1/3 of patients, the more quickly a patient is started on an anti-stroke plan, the greater the likelihood of averting a stroke. Indeed, some strokes can be avoided when patients are treated promptly and appropriately after a TIA.

The Western Neuro comprehensive TIA center is dedicated to admitting patients within 24-48 hours of recovery from their TIA, the ideal timeframe for evaluating the causes and potential treatments for the blockage. During the preliminary evaluation, the patient will undergo a series of physical exams and diagnostic testing to determine the cause of the TIA and the risk of future stroke. A treatment plan will be formulated based on the patient’s individual profile and health status.


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