Transient Cerebral Ischemic Attacks

by Michael_Koger

Transient cerebral ischemic attacks (TIA) are well-known to physicians, and they occur when there is interference with blood flow to the brain.

The occurrence of these episodes may appear to be a stroke. In reality, they do not last more than 24 hours. Though they may be a forerunner of stroke, there is a difference between the two conditions. In fact, TIAs do not lead to permanent brain damage. Nevertheless, nearly half of all strokes happen only a few days after a TIA [1, 2].

In any event, these attacks tend to affect elderly people who are at least 55 years of age. Though they generally resolve in less than 10 minutes, their onset is abrupt. Moreover, it is unusual for these clients to suffer from loss of consciousness or mental confusion. When loss of consciousness does take place, the health care team must further investigate to determine what other possibilities are present [1, 2].

Clinical Presentation

     There may be numbness, weakness, and visual loss when someone experiences a TIA.  The person may also have dizziness, double vision, impairment of speech, and loss of balance when he or she walks.  Swallowing difficulty is also a possibility.  Additionally, there may be facial and upper extremity weakness.  Loss of vision in one-half of the visual fields in these clients is well-known to neurologists [1, 2].

     With the myriad of clinical signs and symptoms or complications that may afflict these individuals, it is clear to physicians that these presentations stem from some part of the brain which has a relation with those occurrences [1]. 

     The clinician will assess vascular risk factors as these provide clues to the medical team about management of the patient.  Of especial interest will be whether the patient has atrial fibrillation on the electrocardiogram as well as hyperlipidemia [1].

     As is the case with many diseases, it is possible to reduce the risk of their occurrence with lifestyle change.  Specifically, these include smoking cessation, dietary modification, and physical exercise with approval from the health care provider.  One can also lower the risk of these episodes with limitation of alcohol intake.  Management of diabetes mellitus is also essential for these patients [1]. 

     Of great importance is early diagnosis of high blood pressure when it occurs and regular medical care [1, 2].

     There are also benefits from surgical procedures for these patients.  Specifically, stenting and endarterectomy are methods to ameliorate the flow of blood to the human brain [1].

     In any event, one must understand that the risk of stroke is 20 percent within 90 days of a TIA occurrence.


     Medical doctors have managed patients with transient cerebral ischemic attacks for many decades, and as diagnosis and treatment improve, the outcome for patients will be better than it has been.


  1. Abbatemarco, J. and Rae-Grant, A.  (2018).  Transient neurologic syndromes:  a diagnostic approach.  Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 85, 155-163.
  2. National Stroke Association.  (2018).  What is TIA?
  3. The photo shows a library at the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is reprinted with permission from that organization.
  4. Copyright Michael Koger, Sr.  All rights reserved.


     The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and one should not use it for diagnosis or treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact their physician for advice.

Updated: 03/16/2018, Michael_Koger
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Michael_Koger on 04/14/2018


frankbeswick on 04/13/2018

My late mother-in-law suffered a transient ischemic attack some months ere she died [well over a year ago now.] During the attack the doctor present thought that she was speaking gibberish, but my wife recognized that her mother had reverted to Irish. Doctors should learn from this experience.

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