Mini Stroke and TIA

Is a Mini Stroke a Big Deal?

Man With Mini Stroke
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A mini stroke is a reversible stroke that causes temporary neurological symptoms and then a relatively quick recovery without permanent brain damage or long-term disability. Mini strokes are called transient ischemic attacks, or TIA for short. They are brief episodes of diminished or interrupted blood supply to a portion of the brain. 

  • Transient- temporary
  • Ischemic- lack of blood supply 
  • Attack- sudden episode 

    A TIA or a possibility of a TIA should be promptly medically evaluated. When a neurological symptom that might be a TIA or a stroke occurs, it is impossible to predict whether the end result will be a TIA or a stroke. Emergency medical attention is necessary for TIAs. Sometimes a TIA can resolve and then later recur. A repeated TIA can occur anytime between a few minutes to several days hours after the first TIA. Recurrence of symptoms can manifest as another TIA or may manifest as a stroke. 

    A TIA is a warning sign that there is a risk of stroke. Sometimes this risk is treatable. An irregular heart beat, cardiovascular disease, carotid artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, hypertension and other treatable causes of stroke may be discovered for the first time after the occurrence of a TIA. 

    How long does a mini stroke/TIA last?

    A TIA usually lasts from seconds to minutes, and may even last for several hours.

    Symptoms of TIA are the same as the symptoms of stroke and can include weakness on one side of the body or face, decreased sensation, numbness or tingling. A TIA may manifest as slurred speech, double vision, blurred vision or vision loss. Unusual lightheadedness or dizziness, a new headache or coordination problems can be the sign of a TIA.

    Trouble understanding or formulating words or confusion can also occur with a TIA.

    What is next after a TIA?

    Often, after a TIA, a careful medical evaluation is carried out to evaluate the cause of the TIA. Whatever caused the TIA may eventually cause a stroke if it is left untreated. After the medical evaluation, a plan for either preventative medication or preventative surgery or both is recommended.

    Medical treatment

    Preventative medical treatment may involve taking blood thinners, which are used to prevent excessive blood clotting that may cause a stroke. Preventative treatment may also consist of management of stroke risk factors, including hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes. Other treatments to prevent stroke include medications to control the heart rhythm because sometimes an irregular heartbeat, atrial fibrillation, can lead to a stroke.

    Surgical treatment

    After TIA, there is often an evaluation of the specific blood vessels that can cause a stroke. The carotid arteries run in the neck and supply blood to the brain.

    When the carotid arteries are narrowed or are found to have high disease, this may cause a TIA or a stroke.  Treatment of carotid artery narrowing and disease may consist of medications and/ or surgery to repair the blood vessels.

    Sometimes, the blood vessels in the heart are found to have narrowing or disease during a TIA evaluation. This may be treated with medication and/or surgery. There are also many types of non-invasive procedures that can surgically repair narrow or diseased blood vessels without the traditional extensive surgical intervention such as cardiac catheterization and carotid stenting and cardiac stenting. However, not everyone is a candidate for non-invasive procedures, and in some situations the more invasive traditional surgical procedures are safer.

    A TIA, transient ischemic attack, is a mini-stroke, also known as a reversible stroke.  A TIA ends on its own, but can recur either exactly the same or differently. It can be more serious if it recurs. A TIA should never be ignored, because it is a stroke warning sign. There is no definitive imaging study or lab test to confirm a TIA. A specialized doctor must evaluate a TIA and formulate a treatment and prevention plan.  Find out how to prevent a TIA from becoming a full blown stroke here.


    Weiner, William J., Goetz, Christopher G, Neurology for the Non-Neurologist, Fifth Edition, Lippincott Wiliams& Winkins, 2004

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