About Transient Ischemic Attacks
Transient ischemic attacks (TIA), known commonly as “mini-strokes,” occur when the blood to the brain is cut off, and it cannot function as it should. “Ischemia” refers to a lack of blood supply, and “transient” means that the effects last less than 24 hours and resolve on their own. However, TIA is often a precursor to a stroke, and anyone who has experienced symptoms should seek medical advice immediately.
Blockage of blood flow to the brain can happen in three ways: hardening and/or narrowing of major blood vessels that lead to the brain, such as in carotid artery disease; a problem with the small blood vessels within the brain itself, preventing blood from flowing properly; or a direct blockage when a piece of plaque or clot from another area of the body (called an embolism) breaks loose and lodges in a blood vessel somewhere, impeding blood flow.
Symptoms of a Transient Ischemic Attack
The symptoms of TIA are the same as a stroke. Emergency medical help should be sought immediately for anyone experiencing symptoms, even if they resolve on their own.
Symptoms of TIA or stroke include:
- Sudden severe headache
- Sudden loss of or blurred vision in one or both eyes
- Trouble walking, talking or understanding
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weakness, tingling or numbness, typically in one side of the body
It is important to discuss these symptoms with an experienced physician who understands why TIA occurs and how to resolve the underlying cause, because many patients who experience TIA will have a full stroke in the future.
Diagnosing a Transient Ischemic Attack
Your physician likely determined that you experienced TIA by reviewing your medical history. However, to find the underlying cause and assess damage, further testing is needed, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan of the head, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain; ultrasounds and angiograms for blockages; chest X-rays, electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) or echocardiogram to examine your heart; and assorted blood tests.
Treatment Options for Transient Ischemic Attacks
After experiencing TIA, your physician will recommend treatment options based on the cause. Because the effects of TIA resolve within 24 hours, treatment is often not for the TIA itself, but to prevent future events.
Many patients will need to make lifestyle modifications in order to mitigate their risk factors. These typically will include smoking cessation, developing an exercise routine and making dietary changes. Some patients will need to avoid certain foods to help manage high blood pressure or diabetes.
Some patients will also require medication to reduce risk factors, such as prescriptions for anticoagulants, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and to quit smoking. Your doctor may also recommend aspirin therapy as an antiplatelet. Medication and lifestyle changes will be enough for many patients. However, some require surgical intervention.
If the TIA is the result of a reduction of blood flow through the carotid artery, the major artery going up each side of your neck, an experienced surgeon can perform carotid revascularization, returning blood flow through the artery.
However, if the problem has to do with blood vessels within the brain, your neurosurgeon may perform cerebral bypass surgery. This is exactly what it sounds like: The surgeon connects the blood vessels in a way such as to bypass the problem area, restoring blood flow to normal.
Why Choose Neurosurgeons of New Jersey?
Anyone who has experienced TIA is at high risk for a stroke in a future, so it’s important to find a doctor with the experience and ability to determine the underlying cause and help prevent further events. At Neurosurgeons of New Jersey, you will find a team of patient-oriented doctors dedicated to working with you to meet your specific needs if you require surgery for your TIA. As the largest network of specialized neurosurgeons in the entire tri-state area, Neurosurgeons of New Jersey can help you both manage your risk factors and reduce your risk with cutting-edge technology and patient-centered care.