What is Transient Ischemic Attack?

Medically Reviewed

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a ministroke, a warning sign that a full-blown ischemic stroke may be in your future.

TIAs produce short-lived stroke symptoms, such as sudden weakness in the face and speech problems that last no more than 5 to 20 minutes. They do not result in permanent brain damage. The cause: a temporary blockage of blood flow because of a clot in an artery carrying blood to the brain.

The symptoms of a TIA should be taken seriously: Approximately 15 percent of all ischemic strokes are preceded by a TIA, and up to 17 percent of TIAs are followed by a full-blown ischemic stroke in the next three months.

In addition, 12 to 13 percent of people die within a year of their TIA. For these reasons, a TIA is as much of an emergency as a full-blown stroke.

How to handle a TIA

Calling 911 and receiving an immediate medical evaluation can help avert a stroke. And if you happen to have a full-blown stroke during evaluation in the hospital, you’ll likely be able to receive the clot-busting drug tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA) within the 1- to 4.5-hour window and increase your odds of survival and full recovery.

Unfortunately, about half of people who have a TIA never tell their doctor and thus do not receive the treatment needed to prevent a stroke.

Learn more about stroke prevention and the importance of rehabilitation in stroke recovery.