AMA Report Urges Prompt TIA Follow-Up

The American Heart Association estimates that at least 240,000 people suffer a TIA (transient ischemic attack) each year, but new guidance urges medical providers to treat these “mini-strokes” as emergencies.   The Heart Association has also updated its guidelines for medical providers on how to evaluate a suspected TIA, which can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms often vanish within an hour. 

According to a recent Washington Post Health report, a TIA can be a warning sign of a subsequent larger stroke; about 1 in 5 patients who suffer a TIA will have a full stroke within three months.  Nearly half of these bigger strokes occur within two days. 

The AHA is calling for the medical community to treat TIAs as a warning stroke rather than a “mini-stroke”. A Transient Ischemic Attack is a condition in which a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain results in stroke-like symptoms that quickly resolve.  Evaluation using brain imaging and risk assessment scores can help determine if a TIA has damaged the brain and flag patients at risk for a bigger stroke.  A thorough medical history, record of symptoms and brain scans can also help rule out other conditions, like low blood sugar or seizure, that could mimic TIA.  Patients who experience stroke-like symptoms should get an MRI(magnetic resonance imaging) scan within 24 hours of onset. 

Symptoms of Transient Ischemic Attack

  • Facial drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Numbness on one side of the body
  • Speech difficulty
  • Dizziness
  • Vision loss
  • Trouble walking

Adults with other cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking are at increased risk for TIA and stroke.  People with suspected TIA who live in rural areas or near hospitals without on-site neurologists or limited imaging technology should be transferred to a hub hospital for MRIs, the new report recommends. 

Read more about the new TIA guideline by following this link to the American Heart Association website.