Transient Ischemic Attacks

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Houston Methodist’s TIA specialists are uniquely positioned to provide the best care for these complex ‘mini strokes’ — and have the comprehension   to prevent serious complications of strokes.

As the nation’s first comprehensive stroke center, Houston Methodist provides expert neurocritical care for patients who experience transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). Also known as “mini-strokes,” TIAs can be the first sign that a patient is at risk for a massive stroke later in life.

Houston Methodist’s multidisciplinary stroke team quickly identifies and treats TIA to help reduce the risk of serious complications. Through our award-winning Stroke Outreach Program, we educate patients and providers on stroke recognition and prevention — including reduction of risk factors that increase the likelihood of a future stroke.

Diagnosing & Treating TIA

How is a TIA diagnosed?

A TIA is similar to an ischemic stroke — when a blood clot blocks oxygen to the brain. However, a TIA does not progress into a massive stroke and lasts only a few minutes. Patients may experience a range of symptoms, such as:


  • Confusion 
  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Dizziness or loss of balance  
  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the body 
  • Severe headache 
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes 
  • Trouble walking and loss of coordination


To diagnose a TIA, a Houston Methodist stroke care neurologist will start with a discussion of your symptoms and your medical history. We will perform a physical examination, along with blood tests. You may undergo imaging tests such as CT, MRI, carotid ultrasound or cerebral angiogram to determine what area of the brain is involved.

TIAs are medical emergencies. Call 911 immediately if you suspect you or a loved one has had a TIA. Approximately 30% of people who have a TIA eventually experience a stroke, many within a year. Specialized follow-up care is vital to reduce the risk of serious brain health consequences.

Risk factors for TIA include:


  • Age 55 years or older 
  • Carotid artery disease 
  • Cholesterol levels – Especially high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels 
  • Cigarette smoking 
  • Diabetes 
  • Family history of TIA or stroke 
  • Heart disease, including prior heart attack or arrhythmia
  • Heavy alcohol use 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Prior TIA 
  • Race or ethnicity – African Americans are at greater risk, in part because of higher rates of high blood pressure and diabetes 
  • Sex – Women are more likely than men to die from stroke 
  • Sickle cell disease 

What treatment options are available?

When treating TIAs, our stroke experts aim to treat and correct underlying conditions or abnormalities to help prevent a stroke. We may prescribe antiplatelet drugs (aspirin) or anticoagulants (warfarin) to decrease blood clotting. We may also recommend other procedures to reduce the chance of stroke:


  • Carotid endarterectomy – Surgeons remove fatty deposits (atherosclerotic plaques) from the carotid arteries to help prevent another TIA or a stroke.
  • Angioplasty – A balloon is inserted through a blood vessel in the groin to expand the narrowed artery, after which a stent is inserted to support the opened artery. If the TIA does not resolve, emergency procedures may be necessary to restore proper blood flow. 

I am looking for advanced care or a second opinion.

TIAs should never be ignored. If you are concerned about your risk of TIA or your current follow-up plan, Houston Methodist’s neurology team can provide a personalized second opinion.

Our interdisciplinary stroke team   provides customized treatment and follow-up strategies for patients who have had or are at risk for a TIA. We can help you reduce your risk of a future stroke and improve your overall cerebral health.

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