Trauma Survivors Network - provided by ATS

Survive. Connect. Rebuild.

A Program of the ATS

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

Definition and Overview

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a mini stroke is a decrease in blood supply to the brain that usually lasts less than 24 hours. A TIA is short-lived and often not too serious. But approximately 1/3 of the people who suffer from these will have full strokes, and these can have very lasting, serious and sometimes deadly effects. 

Causes and Symptoms

The most common cause of a TIA is a small blood clot that gets caught in one of the arteries that supplies blood to the brain. A blood clot can come from other parts of the body, as a result of things such as smoking and having clotting disorders, diabetes, or high cholesterol.

The signs and symptoms of a TIA can be variable and depend on which area of the brain is involved. They can include vision problems, weakness on one side of the body, trouble speaking, numbness, and even loss of consciousness. These symptoms will usually be short lived; if they last longer than 24 hours then they are considered a stroke. 


There are a variety of mechanisms for diagnosing a TIA or stroke. These include ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and angiography. They are all designed to examine the arteries that feed the brain, locate the clot and determine its extent. Treatment is designed to get rid of the clot if it is still there, and to try to prevent any future clots from causing TIAs or stroke. 

Treatment and Prognosis

The doctor will often prescribe drugs. In some cases it is necessary to remove the plaque in the artery or to widen narrowed arteries. If the patient has a TIA they will most likely recover with no further problems from that one incident. They will, however, be at higher risk of suffering subsequent attacks or even a stroke. It is therefore important to identify and modify risk factors. Risk factors include, smoking, high cholesterol and sodium, alcohol, and diabetes. It is important to decrease the intake of these things and to increase exercise and intake of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables.