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TIA – Definition

December 9, 2020


So the first question that often sort of gets asked of me is what exactly is a TIA? And I would point out that there was a tremendous amount of confusion in the community, both by providers and by patients and families. So first of all, what is a TIA? It Tia is a stroke that doesn’t stick. And what do we mean by that? Well, generally a stroke is where a cla lands in the brain blocks an artery and the brain stops working. Well eventually, that clot causes permanent brain damage. That’s a stroke. With a TIA. A cloud goes up, blocks an artery, and that brain stops working. Someone has symptoms of a stroke, numbness, weakness, vision loss, but before that becomes permanent, before this permanent damage in the brain, that clot breaks up and it goes away. Typically a classic stroke is defined, or a TIA is defined as a stroke symptoms that lasts less than 24 hours. With the advent of MRI, which is the gold standard way for us to detect a stroke, what we have sort of gravitated to actually is what we call a tissue based diagnosis, which means someone has stroke symptoms, they go away, we do an MRI, and if there’s no damage, we know it was a TIA. If there’s damage, even if the symptoms are gone, it can still be a stroke. So the diagnosis is, or the definition has actually changed over the years. And that’s really what’s led to a lot of the confusion. I would also like to add or sort of point out that the name TIA, it actually has synonyms. I mean, people call them other things, mini strokes, being the most common one out there.

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