A Transient lschaemic Attack (TIA) happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted for a short period of time. It is often called a mini-stroke.
The signs are the same as those of a stroke (such as weakness on one side of the body, loss of sight and slurred speech) but they do not last as long. The signs of a TIA may disappear in a few minutes and last no longer than 24 hours.
Importantly, a TIA is often a warning of impending stroke. About one in five people who have a TIA will have a major stroke in the next three months.
- A TIA should never be ignored
If you, or someone you know, have any of the signs of a TIA, seek medical attention immediately. Though the signs may be due to something quite different from a TIA, such as a migraine or an epileptic seizure, the sooner you seek help the more likely the doctor will be able to say whether or not it was a TIA.
- What should I do if the signs go away?
You should see your doctor even if the signs go away and you feel completely better. A TIA is a strong warning that a stroke may happen. Stroke can lead to death or long-term disability. It can be prevented with changes to your lifestyle or with medication. Your doctor will talk to you about your treatment options.
What your doctor may do
The doctor will want to know about your signs what they were, how long they lasted and whether they have happened before. This will help distinguish between a TIA and other possible causes. What happens next will depend on your medical history and what happened when you had the TIA. The doctor will do a series of tests and may refer you to a specialist.
Precisely which tests are carried out varies from person to person and may include some or all of the following:
- blood pressure test
- blood tests to check clotting and to check sugar and cholesterol levels
- Electrocardiogram (ECG) to look for any unusual heart rhythms
- chest X-ray to exclude other health problems
- CT head scan (brain X-ray)
- ultrasound of the carotid arteries to check blood flow or blockages
- echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) to check for various forms of heart disease