Transient ischemic attack
When to seek medical advice
See your doctor if you suspect you may have had signs or symptoms of a
TIA. You'll need an immediate medical evaluation to determine what
caused the problem. It's important to identify the cause so that you can
take steps to prevent a stroke.
Screening and diagnosis
Characteristics of a TIA include its rapid onset, short duration and
your body's return to its normal state. Your doctor may diagnose a TIA
based just on the medical history of the event rather than on anything
found during a general physical and neurologic examination.
In some people who've experienced a TIA, a physical examination may
reveal evidence that suggests the presence of arterial plaques. Your
doctor may hear a sound (bruit) over the carotid artery in your neck
during an examination. Or your doctor may observe cholesterol fragments
(emboli) in the tiny blood vessels of your retina, at the back of your
eye, during an eye examination using an ophthalmoscope.
These tests also may help diagnose the cause of a TIA:
A wand-like device (transducer) sends high-frequency sound waves
into your neck. After the sound waves pass through your tissue and
back, your doctor can analyze images on a screen to look for
narrowing or clotting in the carotid arteries.
tomography (CT) scanning.
CT scanning of your head uses X-ray beams to assemble a composite,
three-dimensional look at your brain.
tomography angiography (CTA) scanning.
CT scanning of the head may also be used to noninvasively evaluate
the arteries in your neck and brain. CTA scanning uses X-rays,
similar to a standard CT scan of the head, but may also involve
injection of a contrast material into a blood vessel.
resonance imaging (MRI).
This procedure, which uses a strong magnetic field, can generate a
composite, three-dimensional view of your brain.
resonance angiography (MRA).
This is a method of evaluating the arteries in your neck and brain.
It uses a strong magnetic field, similar to MRI.
During this procedure, a flexible probe with a transducer built into
it is placed in your esophagus — the tube that connects the back of
your mouth to your stomach. Because your esophagus is directly
behind your heart, very clear, detailed ultrasound images can be
created, allowing a better view of some things, such as blood clots,
that might not be seen clearly in a traditional echocardiography
This procedure gives a view of arteries in your brain not normally
seen in X-ray imaging. A radiologist inserts a thin, flexible tube
(catheter) through a small incision, usually in your groin. The
catheter is manipulated through your major arteries and into your
carotid or vertebral artery. Then, the radiologist injects a dye
through the catheter to provide X-ray images of the arteries in your
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