Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is just like an ischemic stroke, except that it typically lasts only a few minutes and resolves completely within hours, without any long-term effects. Also called a ministroke, a TIA may be a warning event. Approximately 30 percent of people who have a TIA eventually experience a stroke, many within a year. After a TIA, it is important to take steps to prevent a stroke.

TIA symptoms can vary, depending on the area of the brain that is affected:

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

Experiencing a TIA is an emergency situation; call 911 immediately .

Identification and treatment of the following risk factors can help prevent a stroke:

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

If You Think Someone Is Having a Stroke
When it comes to stroke, the best way to determine if someone is having one is to think FAST.

  • Face — Does the face look uneven? Ask the person to smile. 
  • Arms — Does one arm drift down? Ask the person to raise both arms. 
  • Speech — Does their speech sound strange? Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. 
  • Time — If you observe any of these signs, it is time to call 911. 

These symptoms may indicate that a stroke has occurred — medical attention is needed immediately.

Diagnosing Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
Our team at Houston Methodist will obtain a medical history and perform a physical examination, along with blood tests. You may undergo imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), carotid ultrasound or cerebral angiogram, to determine what area of the brain is involved. The goal is to identify TIA and stabilize your condition, if necessary.

Treating Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
Doctors at Houston Methodist 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 — Removes 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.

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