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Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 22, 2024.

What is Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)?

Harvard Health Publishing

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is an episode of stroke-like symptoms. It usually lasts less than one hour. A TIA is sometimes called a mini stroke

During a TIA, circulation to a part of the brain is interrupted briefly, and then restored. This interruption can be caused by: 

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)


Symptoms of a TIA are the same as those of stroke. However, TIA symptoms usually last for less than one to two hours. Most TIAs actually last only five to 20 minutes. 


Your doctor will ask about: 

Your doctor will examine you. He or she may pay special attention to the circulation in your neck. This is where major arteries supplying the brain are located. While examining your neck, the doctor will listen with a stethoscope for turbulent sounds. These sounds indicate that blood is flowing through narrowed arteries.  

Blood tests will be done. Your doctor will also do a test called an electrocardiogram (EKG). An EKG measures the electrical activity of your heart. 

Your doctor may order a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of your brain. These will help to help pinpoint the cause of a TIA. 

To evaluate flow through blood vessels, your doctor may do other tests. These include Doppler ultrasound, magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) or X-ray angiography.  

If your doctor suspects that floating blood clots are coming from your heart, special heart tests may be necessary.  

Expected Duration

The onset of any symptoms suggestive of a stroke or TIA requires immediate medical attention.  

You can expect a TIA to last less than one to two hours. If symptoms are not improving quickly within one hour from onset, a stroke is likely to occur without emergent therapy.


You can help to prevent TIAs by: 


When treating TIAs, the ultimate goal is to prevent a full-fledged stroke.  

Most TIAs are treated with antiplatelet medications. The choices include: 

If you have significant narrowing of part of the carotid artery in the neck, surgery may be done to correct the problem. This will help prevent future TIAs and stroke. The procedure is called carotid endarterectomy or carotid artery stenting.  

Some TIAs are related to small free floating blood clots in the heart. These clots can occur in people with atrial fibrillation or advanced heart failure. In this situation, your doctor may choose anticoagulation (anti-clotting) medications such as a direct oral anticoagulant drug. 

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

When To Call a Professional

Call your doctor immediately whenever anyone has symptoms of stroke. Call even if these symptoms last only a few minutes. TIAs can be a warning sign that a stroke is about to happen. They require prompt attention.


Without treatment, having a history of one or more TIAs significantly increases your risk of stroke compared with someone who has never had a TIA.

Additional Info

National Stroke Association

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Learn more about Transient Ischemic Attack

Treatment options

Care guides

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.